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Senator Stabenow’s ‘Smart’ Labels Would Hit Her Hometown Residents Hard

A handful of multinational agribusiness and food companies have spent over $100 million over the past three years to fight Americans’ right to know what is in the products they purchase and consume. It appears Senator Stabenow (D-MI) is trying to accommodate Big Ag — a situation that is particularly tragic for residents of her own state. Right now Stabenow is working hard to come up with a “compromise” on labeling genetically engineered (GE) food products. Her idea is that so-called “smart labels” — digital product information accessed via a smartphone with network coverage — are sufficient for getting consumers access about product ingredients.

Unfortunately, Senator Stabenow’s proposal would only compromise Americans’ — and especially her Michigan constituents’ — right to know what is in the products they buy and feed their families. It is well-documented that rural communities throughout Michigan would be a particularly hard-hit target in terms of being denied information by “smart labels”, as more than half of rural Americans do not have a smartphone, let alone the necessary network coverage that would be required to access the information. But as noted in a recent New York Times article, residents in Michigan’s most populous and economically challenged urban areas would not fare any better. According to the Federal Communications Commission, Detroit has the worst rate of Internet access of any major American city — 40 percent of its residents lack broadband connections.

If Senator Stabenow’s compromise was implemented, a full third of the American public would be left in the dark in terms of accessing information about the products they purchase, as only 64 percent own smartphones. Worse still, only 50 percent of low-income consumers have a smartphone and nearly half (48 percent) of smartphone owners have had service switched off or suspended due to financial hardship. Many of these same consumers are those who are still struggling to rise above the impacts the Great Recession continues to have on Detroit.