USDA Labeling for Genetically Modified Food Updated

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Jan. 4, 2022

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new food labeling rules for genetically modified food products went into effect Jan. 1, 2022.

The big difference for consumers is that they’ll no longer see the words “GMO,” which stands for genetically modified organisms.

Instead, they’ll see a round green label that says “bioengineered” or “derived from bioengineering” or a label with a phone number or QR code to provide more information.

A USDA spokesperson said the change will bring uniformity to food labeling, which up to now depended on “a patchwork” of state regulations, The Washington Post reported.

The rule went into effect in 2020, but the compliance deadline was Jan. 1, 2022.

Some of the old official certifications will remain, such as “USDA Organic” and “NON-GMO Project Verified.” Dietary supplement manufacturers must follow the labeling rules, though restaurants do not, The Post said.

The Center for Food Safety and other advocacy groups say the labeling doesn’t go far enough and is unfair to people without smartphones who won’t be able to scan the QR codes. The USDA won’t perform in-store checks to ensure compliance but will rely on consumer complaints instead.

“The already overburdened consumer is going to have to spend four times as much time in the supermarket reading labels,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, told The Post. “And now they’ll have to be USDA citizen investigators to make sure this law has some consequences.”

Food companies urged the government to delay implementation of the rule.

“We believe the government must take a ‘do no harm’ position right now that allows companies to focus on delivering essential products to consumers,” Betsy Booren of the Consumer Brands Association, a trade group, told The Post.

The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard defines bioengineered foods as “those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature,” according to the USDA website.

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