Food Companies Get Until 2022 To Label GMOs (#GotBitcoin?)
New USDA rule obligates food makers to disclose genetically engineered ingredients on labels. Food Companies Get Until 2022 To Label GMOs
U.S. food companies must label products containing genetically engineered ingredients by 2022, federal regulators said, a victory for manufacturers who pushed for more time before disclosing use of the controversial crops.
The new rules for labeling “bioengineered foods” also allow companies to skip labeling some ingredients, including refined sugars and corn syrups that often are made from genetically modified crops. That decision, outlined Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is a win for food makers that argued traces of genetic material from modified crops in those ingredients are eliminated during processing.
“This ensures clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food,” USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue said.
Consumer groups, food companies and seed manufacturers fought for years over whether and how such ingredients should be disclosed on labels for candy bars, breakfast cereals, salad dressings and myriad other products that incorporate genetically modified crops.
Some consumer groups said Thursday that the final rules will take too long to implement and allow food makers to use technology like scannable codes on their products that would make it hard for some shoppers to easily discern the presence of genetically modified ingredients.
“These rules aren’t really going to require disclosure anytime soon, and the disclosure can be in a form that consumers don’t even understand,” said Dr. Michael Hansen, senior scientist for the Consumer Reports advocacy group, which has pushed for more detailed disclosure.
Farm groups and food companies praised the rules.
“The USDA made a sound decision to empower industry to give [consumers] more information about the products they consume, how they were made and where they come from,” said Karin Moore, general counsel for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a Washington-based group representing food makers.
More than 90% of corn and soybean acreage in the U.S. is planted with genetically modified plants, according to USDA data. Food industry officials have estimated that 70% to 80% of foods eaten in the U.S. contain ingredients derived from genetically modified crops. The modifications typically make plants resistant to herbicides and crop-destroying pests.
Groups that pushed for more descriptive labels have said pesticide use associated with GMO crops takes a toll on the environment and human health, and that the effects of eating biotech crops aren’t fully understood. U.S. health agencies have deemed genetically modified foods safe to eat.
Under the new rules, food companies should by January 2020 begin implementing the changed labels, language or scannable codes on their products. Small food companies will get another year to start, according to the USDA. All food companies are required to have labels and systems that meet the new standard by January 2022.
Companies that say the amount of genetically modified material in their heavily refined ingredients, like high-fructose corn syrup or processed vegetable oils, is too small to be detected will have to keep records confirming those findings, USDA said.
The USDA’s labeling rules follow a federal law passed in 2016 to implement a national labeling standard. That law arose after a series of ballot initiatives attempted to force GMO labeling on a state-by-state basis. Food makers lobbied for a national standard instead because they said changing their packaging to meet legal standards by state would be too expensive.
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