by Marion Nestle
Sep 20 2022

Judge rules QR codes can’t substitute for GMO (GE) food labels

A couple of years ago, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit challenging the USDA’s GMO labeling law.

I’ve discussed the law in a previous post (and in an even earlier one, Goodbye GMO, Hello Bioengineered: USDA publishes labeling rules).

Basically, the current law is supposed to put this logo on GMO foods.

Image result for bioengineering logo usda

The Center’s lawsuit called for:

  1. On package labeling.  The law allowed QR codes instead.
  2. Use of the term genetically modified or GMO rathat than bioengineered.
  3. Labeling of foods with GM ingredients.
  4. More information about GM food.

The District Judge dismissed #2, #3, and #4, but agreed that QR codes are insufficient.

Consequently, plaintiffs have carried their burden of showing that AMS’s decision to implement a standalone text message disclosure option was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law”…Summary judgment is granted to plaintiffs on the APA claim for the text message regulation, and Sections 66.106 and 66.108 of the regulations are remanded to the USDA without vacatur for reconsideration in light of this order. Summary judgment is denied in all other respects.

The Center for Food Safety’s translation:

A U.S. District Court has held that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s decision to allow genetically engineered (GMO) foods to only be labeled with a “QR” code was unlawful, and that USDA must instead add additional disclosure options to those foods under USDA’s National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. The Court sent back to the agency the QR code portions of the 2018 Trump administration rules for GMO labeling that went into effect on January 1, 2022, which hindered consumer access with burdensome electronic or digital disclosures.

If you care at all about whether GMO foods are in supermarkets, good luck.  I’ve seen cartons of Hawaiian papayas labeled with that logo, but not the papayas themselves and not much else.

Once again, if you want to know what GMO fruits and vegetables might—in theory—be in supermarket produce sections, you can check the FDA’s website.

The purple tomato recently approved by USDA is not on that list; the FDA hasn’t gotten to it yet.

Mostly, GMO produce is not in supermarkets.  But wouldn’t it be nice to know for sure?

It will be interesting to see if this ruling makes things more transparent.


Coming soon!  My memoir, October 4.

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