USDA’s GMO-labeling rules, such as they are, go into effect
On January 1, the USDA’s useless rules for labeling bioengineered (BE) foods, those formerly known as genetically modified (GMOs), went into effect.
Will the new rules help you figure out which items in the produce section or anywhere else in the store have been genetically engineered?
Not a chance.
I am particularly curious about what’s in the produce section. It’s easy enough to know which genetically modified foods have been approved by the FDA; the FDA has a website for this purpose.
But just because they’ve been approved does not necessarily mean they are in production and in your supermarket.
To know which ones are genetically modified, it would be nice to have labels.
Instead, we have the results of USDA’s obfuscation, as I discussed in a blog post two years ago: Goodbye GMO, Hello Bioengineered: USDA publishes labeling rules. It’s worth repeating:
Trump’s USDA has issued final rules for labeling food products of biotechnology, commonly known to all of us as GMOs.
Since GMOs have taken on a pejorative—Frankenfood—connotation, the USDA wanted to fix that. And did it ever.
It drops GMOs, and substitutes “Bioengineered.”
Its logo depicts food biotechnology as sun shining on agriculture.And the rules have a loophole big enough to exclude lots of products from having to carry this logo: those made with highly refined GMO sugars, starches and oils made from GMO soybeans and sugar beets.
If the products do not contain detectable levels of DNA, they are exempt. Never mind that GMO/bioengineered is a production issue.
When Just Label It was advocating for informing the public about GMOs, this was hardly what it had in mind.
Count this as a win for the GMO industry.
- The obfuscating term BE, as opposed to GMO
- The loopholes for disclosure options: text, symbol, QR code, note to receive a text message . Or, for small companies: phone number or website.
- GMO corn, soybeans, or sugar do not have to be disclosed if levels of DNA are not detectable.
What’s new since two years ago?
The Washington Post has a good explanation of the rules
- What is a bioengineered food?
- What will the disclosure look like on food packages?
- If a food package doesn’t have a QR code or “BE” food label, is it free from genetically modified ingredients?
- Is an animal product considered a bioengineered food if the animal ate bioengineered feed?
- How do food companies validate their claims about ingredients?
- How will the new rule be enforced?
The Counter explains the legal challenges to the new rules. The Center for Food Safety’s lawsuit is here.
Study: the new labeling law won’t make any difference to purchase decisions.
Comment: The law allows other certifications like USDA Organic and NON-GMO Project Verified. These work. Expect to see more of them. And let’s keep an eye on that lawsuit.