The countdown begins for compliance with GMO food labeling rule
Four years after thundering in Congress over the labeling of foods made with GMO ingredients, the deadline for compliance with USDA labeling regulations is in sight — the end of 2021 — despite complaints that the rule is full of loopholes that exempt many foods.
Under the rule, food manufacturers have four options for labeling GMO ingredients, ranging from saying it on the package to a fingernail-sized QR code, so consumers may find it difficult to identify. identify a GMO food. The labels will say bioengineering, rather than the more commonly used GENETICALLY MODIFIED ORGANISM, which could also dilute their impact. And disclosure is discretionary for some GMO ingredients, primarily corn and soybean oils from biotech plants.
Congress passed the labeling law in the summer of 2016, after months of struggle, as part of a legislative deal that called for mandatory disclosure of GMOs nationwide in exchange for a preemption on GMOs. state labeling laws. president obama signed the bill on July 29. After two years of drafting rules, the USDA released the GMO regulations end of 2018. The implementation timeline began a year ago, with small food processors being covered last Friday. Compliance becomes mandatory after December 31.
Although the deadline is approaching, the form of compliance is still unclear. “Nobody knows the answer to that question,” said Greg Jaffe, who tracks biotechnology for consumer group Center for Science in the Public Interest.
According to the Environmental Working Group, up to one in six foods containing GMOs may be exempt from labeling due to USDA shortcomings. Highly refined sugars and oils from corn, soybeans, canola and sugar beets have been exempted because they do not contain detectable amounts of genetic material, but food companies can disclose them if they wish. Soybean oil is widely used in packaged foods, from salad dressing to baked goods, for example.
GMO labels appear on some products. Below the ingredient list of many Campbell’s soups is the following sentence: “The corn, soy, sugar and canola ingredients in this product are derived from genetically modified crops.” Post Raisin Bran is “partially produced by genetic engineering,” according to the ingredient list on its label. Candy maker Mars uses the same wording as Post.
Ahold Delhaize USA, owner of supermarket chains such as Food Lion and Giant Food, announced last July that it would require clear “Bioengineered Food” labels on its private label products, reported Supermarket News.
But a stroll through grocery store aisles will find few GMO labels, at least at this point, on breakfast cereals, many of which are sugary; on pancake syrups, many of which are made with corn syrup; or crackers, chips and cookies, which use sweeteners and cooking oils.
Although GMO labeling has been actively supported by some consumer and environmental groups, other issues have quickly taken priority. The Trump administration has proposed deep cuts to SNAP and proposed rollbacks to water and air protections.
The GMO labeling law applies to grocery products. Foods sold by restaurants, food trucks, delis, or served by airlines are not required to carry bioengineered food labels, even if the items are produced with GMOs. Meat, poultry and egg products are not covered by the labeling law.
The USDA Home Page for Bioengineered Foods Regulation is available here.