Food at the supermarket could soon include a code for smartphones

Credit: Brennan Linsley

Credit: Brennan Linsley

Those square codes with a labyrinth of black lines often seen on airline boarding passes could soon become a fixture on food in the grocery store.

As soon as this week the U.S. House of Representatives will vote on a bill that would require food manufacturers to include labels for genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

Instead of listing the ingredients, the labels could be a square QR code that shoppers could scan with their smartphones to access information online about each food item.

The Senate approved the GMO labeling bill last week.

The QR code provision strikes a compromise between lawmakers who oppose labeling GMOs and those who want manufacturers to list each genetically modified ingredient.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, plans to back the bill even as he opposes many parts of it.

"While I will never fully support federally mandating the disclosure of information that has absolutely nothing to do with nutrition, health, or safety, it is my expectation that this legislation will be considered on the House floor," Conaway said. "It is my intention to support this bill."

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats who favor labeling GMOs doubt that consumers would actually stop to scan QR codes on food packaging.

"Can you really expect a busy consumer, a mother with children in the shopping cart, to pull out a cellphone and stop at every can of soup?" said Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois.