The USDA finally released their long-awaited draft rule that will implement a Genetically Engineered or GMO food disclosure law. The draft leaves a lot of things unanswered and is quite troubling in many regards.
This could have been an opportunity for the USDA to provide full transparency to consumers who want to know what’s in the food they eat. But instead, they left the door open to downright murky interpretations of GMO labeling.
The name of the draft rule is the “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard,”and it indicates a complete disregard for what consumers recognize as standard disclosure nomenclature.
Instead of using commonly known phrases such as “genetically modified,” “GMO,” or “genetically engineered,” this rule would require companies to use the words “bioengineered” or “bioengineered food ingredients. Companies may use a statement such as “may contain bioengineered ingredients” or “contains bioengineered ingredients” which will be confusing to many Americans who are used to seeing “GE” or “GMO” in regards to genetically engineered foods.
Another way companies can make the disclosure is by placing a symbol on the package. The proposed symbols for disclosure aren’t very insightful; instead they are almost whimsical. The proposed logos include a parade of round smiley faces haloed in rays of sunshine; some are nearly winking at us.
Without any words attached to these symbols, one would think we are eating BE-autiful rays of golden light!
Using confusing new words or cheerful symbols will not build consumer trust; it will only sow more confusion and concern.
Another problem with the draft rule is that it doesn’t clearly mandate whether highly refined sugars or oils will be labeled. If companies don’t have to label these ingredients, it could potentially exclude 70% of products that have GMO ingredients.
In addition, the rule may not cover the new gene-editing techniques entering our food supply at breathtaking speed.
Another way companies can make the disclosure is to place a digital symbol or a QR code on the package. There are a number of problems with this type of disclosure, and there are no rules for companies that choose to use this method.
It’s possible that QR codes won’t read correctly every time. What happens when the one in four Americans who don’t own smartphones need to scan that QR code? I guess they’re left in the dark.
How many times do you find yourself with poor cell service or no access to the internet? Guess you are out of luck if you see a pesky QR code!
This proposed rule is a critical next step toward requiring nationwide disclosures of GMO foods. We’ve got less than 30 days to get comments in. If USDA’s inadequate GMO rule progresses as is, it may be nearly impossible to find out how the ingredients in our food have been grown for years to come.
The deadline to make comments is July 3, 2018,and it will not be extended because of the tight timeline Congress mandated for rulemaking. This is a matter of incredible urgency!
Please comment here before July 3rd,2018.
You can use these sample comments provided by Just Label It:
The department must require companies to:
1) Disclose all GMOs: All GMO foods – including foods with GMO ingredients like refined sugars and oils, and foods with ingredients derived from all forms of genetic engineering like CRISPR and RNAi – must carry GMO disclosures. The draft rule leaves it open for the USDA to decide whether or not to include ALL GMOs, but that should not be up for debate.
2) Use the word “GMO” or “genetically engineered”: The proposed rule uses “bioengineered food” (BE) instead of “genetically modified” (GMO) or “genetically engineered” (GE) – the most common terms for genetically altered foods. The USDA should use the words consumers already know.
3) Regulate digital options: The proposed rule has limited guidelines for regulating digital or electronic disclosures. If companies decide to use a digital disclosure, there should be STRONG rules for size, color and material requirements to ensure success every time a product is scanned.
4) Provide comparable options: Twenty million Americans live without adequate cell service, but the proposed rule does not provide comparable options for these consumers, as required by the law. Retailers must provide scanners in every aisle for consumers who do not have smartphones or who lack reliable cell service.
There is one last step to stop Monsanto and Big Food from creating loopholes to keep hiding GMO ingredients from consumers.
Once you make your own comments, please sign on to the Just Label It Petition. They are collecting as many petition signatures as possible to add to the official USDA docket. They need at least 30,000 signatures if we’re going to get Big Food to back off.
Add your name to Just Label It’s petition todayand help them reach 30,000 signatures urging the USDA to create a clear GMO disclosure standard!
This has been a long, rigorous fight, and this comment period is our LAST CHANCE to make our voices heard in the battle for GMO labeling.