USDA Issues Proposed Rule on GMO Labeling for Foodmakers

Washington Post writer Caitlin Dewey reported today that, “Foodmakers will soon be required to disclose when their products contain genetically modified ingredients — but those labels may not be as obvious, or as comprehensive, as consumers expected.

“Food products may be exempted from labeling if they are made with some refined GM sugars and oils, or if a product contains GM ingredients in amounts that fall beneath a predetermined threshold, according to a proposed rule released by the Agriculture Department on Thursday.

“The proposed rule also instructs foodmakers to use the term ‘bioengineered‘ to label GM foods instead of ‘genetically modified,’ a more recognizable phrase.”

Ms. Dewey noted that, “The proposed rule, which will now undergo a public comment period and could be finalized as early as this summer, represents a major milestone in the complicated, years-long process to regulate the labeling of GM foods. Congress passed a mandatory-labeling law in 2016, but implementation has been delayed by questions about which foods should be covered and what types of labels foodmakers should use.

“Food and consumer groups said they were happy to see the rules move forward, though some expressed concern about provisions they say could leave many products excluded and many shoppers confused.”

The Post article added that, “Food companies will have three options for disclosing GM ingredients, the USDA said: a one-sentence label declaration, such as ‘contains a bioengineered food ingredient;’ a standardized icon, like that used in the National Organic Program; or a QR code or other digital marker that directs shoppers to a website for more information. In a statement, the Grocery Manufacturers Association praised the flexible standard, pointing out that it has already put QR codes on 25,000 products through its SmartLabel program.”

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