Sunday, July 23, 2017

How Should Bioengineered Foods be Labeled?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has extended its deadline to August 25, 2017 for submitting comments on GMO labeling of food products.  There is still time for you to we to provide your input.

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) — also known as GM foods and bioengineered foods — appear in our food supply in various forms, affecting both plants and animals as well as oils, seasonings and food additives.

Because of the complexity of agreeing on what products to label and how to label them, the USDA has put together 30 questions that you can answer to give your opinion. Just send your responses to before the deadline.

Some of the issues the USDA is seeking input on are summarized below:
   What should bioengineered foods be called?
   What types of breeding also qualify as GM?
   What should be considered “found in nature” and not require GMO labels?
   Do highly refined products like oils and sugars need GMO labels?
   Should all GMO ingredients be disclosed, or only “most predominant” ingredients?
   How much “bioengineered substance” has to be present for a food product to be GMO?
   Should dietary supplements and “medical food” have GMO labels?
   What should a GMO symbol look like?
   How can digital or electronic disclosures be regulated and account for changing technologies?
   What labels should be used for fresh produce in bins, fish at counters and foods sold online?
   How should small food manufacturers be defined to be excluded from GMO labeling?
   What kind of records should the government require to demonstrate compliance?
   How would hearings be held for non-compliance, and how should the findings be made public?
   How should GMO disclosure requirements be applied to imported food products?
   Should USDA GMO labeling rules preempt any GMO labeling legislated at the state-level.

Once the USDA receives comments and comes up with new regulations on GMO labeling, the labels should tell people more about their food products than current labels do. However, they won’t address all situations.

The USDA clarifies that “food derived from any animal, including invertebrates such as crickets or bee products, would not require disclosure as a bioengineered food solely because their nutrition came from food with bioengineered ingredients.”  Furthermore, food sold in restaurants would also not require GMO labels, and Americans now spend more in restaurants than in grocery stores.

The USDA plans to come up with its GMO labeling rules by July 2018. The rules will preempt any related state laws, making it easier for companies to do business nationally with only one set of GMO labeling requirements.