USDA’s Proposal for GMO Labeling Draws Industry Ire

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Washington, D.C. – The public comment period is open for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recently unveiled proposal for food labeling of products using GMOs.

Instead of food labels including the words “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered,” the USDA wants to substitute the initials BE – for Bio-Engineered foods.  As pictured here, the letters are placed within almost sun-like images.

“The images are just as insulting to consumers as the law, which the chemical and junk food industry lobbyists spent $400 million to pass,” says Katherine Paul of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) in an article reported in Common Dreams.  Paul goes on to say the images are misleading, and that consumers who are used to GMO labeling will not be as aware of what the unfamiliar BE images represent.

The USDA released the long-awaited proposed regulations in early May.

The regulations come out of a 2016 law signed by President Obama prohibiting existing state GE labeling laws that required on-package GE labeling, and instead created a federal disclosure program, which, for the first time, created a nationwide standard of required GE disclosure. The 2016 law requires that USDA issue the final rules by July 29, 2018.

At the time Vermont had a law requiring manufacturers to issue a statement on products saying they had been genetically engineered.

The USDA is also proposing to allow manufacturers to choose to use “QR codes,” which are encoded images on a package that must be scanned and are intended to substitute for clear, on-package labeling.

Real-time access to the information behind the QR code image requires a smartphone and a reliable broadband connection, technologies often lacking in rural areas. As a result, this labeling option would discriminate against more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to this technology. Last fall, CFS forced the public disclosure of USDA’s study on the efficacy of this labeling, which showed it would not provide adequate disclosure to millions of Americans.

“USDA should not allow QR codes,” stated Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. ”USDA’s own study found that QR codes are inherently discriminatory against one third of Americans who do not own smartphones, and even more so against rural, low income, and elderly populations or those without access to the internet. USDA should mandate on-package text or symbol labeling as the only fair and effective means of disclosure for GE foods.”

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