GMO Labeling Legislation
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) will allow public comments about its long-awaited proposed regulations for the mandatory disclosure of foods produced using genetic engineering, commonly known as GMOs, until July 3.
While this legislation is intended to provide transparency, the USDA’s proposed system leaves significant loopholes that would allow companies to continue hiding GMOs. For example there are no clear requirements for companies to label ingredients derived from GMO crops, like sugars and oils, which could allow up to 70 percent of GMO products to go unlabeled.
Companies can also disclose GMO ingredients online rather than on product packaging, making it difficult or impossible for Americans without smartphones or adequate cell service to know what is in their food.
Companies are also not required to use common terms like genetically modified or GMO. Instead companies would be allowed to market their products as bioengineered or BE, thus misleading consumers. Additionally, the disclosure law permits the use of symbols instead of text. However two of three symbols proposed by USDA are cartoonishly pro-biotech propaganda, with blatantly biased smiley faces and a sun. USDA should eliminate these biased symbol options and allow the symbol to include the acronym GE or GMO.
Consumers should urge the agency to adopt the following:
- Reject QR codes and other discriminatory options to on-package labels and insist on clear, on-package labels with text and/or an easily understood symbol to maximize the benefits of required disclosures to all consumers.
- Allow for the use of common, well-established labeling terms, such as GE or GMO.
- Require unbiased, neutral symbols.
- Include all processed foods produced with genetic engineering, given that the vast majority of GE foods are not whole foods, but processed foods, made with GE commodity crops such as corn, soy, canola and sugar derived from GE beets, including cooking oils, sodas and candies.
- Ensure future food products made with newer forms of genetic engineering are covered.
- Require disclosure now, not postpone to 2022. The labeling law requires regulations be finalized by July 29. However, USDA would allow companies to nonetheless postpone GMO labeling until as late as 2022.
This is the final step in a decades-long process of demanding and securing GMO food labeling in the United States at the state and federal level. As such, public comment will be extremely important. Unique and personalized comments will have the greatest impact. Please note that the USDA is not treating email or web-based petitions as a valid form of comments.