The USDA has released its final Bioengineered (f/k/a GMO) labeling requirements. And they look pretty solid.
The rules implement a national GMO-labeling law for consistent disclosure of GMO ingredients. Companies will have the option of using a QR code, the word “bioengineered” or the field symbol (above). The agency clarified that the word “bioengineered” was used because it is more accurate than “genetically modified organism.”
All food companies are required to comply with the law by January of 2022. That seems like a long way off, but it gives companies plenty of time to consider their options, look at their supply chain, and implement as appropriate. But expect to see the label pop up in stores long before the deadline.
Technologies, such as CRISPR, aren’t required to label. And animal products, including meat and cheese, from animals that consumed GMO feed aren’t required to label. There is also a safe harbor exception that protects companies when an inadvertently small amount of GMO ingredients winds up in a product (which is great–so activists can’t randomly test products and then file lawsuits!).
As expected, some are already crying foul over the new rules. The rules exempt certain, highly-refined ingredients like high-fructose corn syrup and sugar from labeling. Why? Because those foods have little to no genetic material, meaning even a sophisticated laboratory can’t tell the difference. So why label it? The exception is common sense, but I suspect anti-GMO activists will exploit it.
Overall, the labeling requirements make sense. This is a good scheme for something that shouldn’t even be required. I’m also happy the agency chose my favorite bioengineered graphic for the label.
Soon science-savvy shoppers can start looking for these labels, instead of always avoiding labels!