USDA Continues to Make Progress on GMO Labeling Rules
As previously reported on this blog, a new federal law requiring labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods and food ingredients was signed into law on July 29, 2016. This law directs the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop regulations and standards to create mandatory disclosure requirements for bio-engineered foods by July 2018. Under the new law, food companies would have three options to disclose GMO ingredients: the use of on-package text, a USDA-created symbol, or an internet link — i.e., a QR code printed on the package that directs customers to GMO information.
Earlier this week at the Prime Label Consultants Food Label Conference in Washington, D.C., a key USDA official indicated that – notwithstanding delays to date due to the change in administration – the Agency is continuing to endeavor to meet the July 2018 deadline. As previously reported on this blog, the labeling law requires a study to identify potential challenges presented by disclosures through electronic or digital means. USDA has contracted with Deloitte to perform this study, which is reportedly on track to be completed next month. If the study demonstrates that digital options do not serve as an adequate means for GMO disclosure, USDA would be required to provide food manufacturers with alternatives options to label GMO foods in its forthcoming proposed rule.
In addition to creating mandatory GMO disclosure disclosure requirements, the Agency also plans to launch two public education campaigns. One is slated to educate consumers on what the GMO symbols and labels mean, and the other will be focused on educating shoppers regarding the safety of GMO foods. The most recent federal spending bill included $3 million for USDA and the FDA to develop a GMO education program.