USDA released proposal for regulations for GMO Labeling
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On Monday this week the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the long-awaited proposed regulations for the mandatory disclosure of foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO), which it calls “Bioengineered foods.” This is reported by Sustainable Pulse online.
The regulations will be "set to keep consumers in dark" comments Sustainable Pulse. It is not a new rule. The regulations come out of a 2016 law signed by President Obama prohibiting existing state GE labeling laws, such as Vermont’s, that required on-package GE labeling, and instead created a federal “disclosure,” program, which, for the first time, creates a nationwide standard of required GE disclosure, reminds Sustainable Pulse and informs that there now will be a 60 day public comment period. Public comments will be particularly important because the proposal presents a range of alternatives for public comments and makes few decisions, leaving considerable unknowns about its outcome. The 2016 law requires that USDA issue the final rules by July 29, 2018.
Manufacturers can use QR codes - that discriminates 100 mn+ Americans
The discussion is about the proposal that instead of requiring clear, on-package labeling in the form of text or a symbol, USDA proposes to allow manufacturers to instead choose to use “QR codes,” which are encoded images on a package that must be scanned. This labeling option would discriminate against more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to this technology.
Last fall, CFS forced the public disclosure of USDA’s study on the efficacy of this labeling, which showed it would not provide adequate disclosure to millions of Americans. “USDA should not allow QR codes,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety (CFS) is quoted. ”USDA’s own study found that QR codes are inherently discriminatory against one third of Americans who do not own smartphones, and even more so against rural, low income, and elderly populations or those without access to the internet. USDA should mandate on-package text or symbol labeling as the only fair and effective means of disclosure for GE foods. This is a ‘Call to Action’ to all Americans who have waited for decades to finally have GE foods labeled. Now is the time to tell the Trump administration to do the right thing and meaningfully label these foods,” declared Kimbrell.
Another big question left unanswered by the proposal is whether or not “highly refined,” GE foods will be covered, such as cooking oils, candies, or sodas that have ingredients derived from GE crops, but are in processed form such that in the final product, the GE content may or may not be detectable. USDA is taking comments on whether or not to include these products, with two differing alternatives including or excluding them. The proposal also seeks comments on how to deal with newer forms of genetic engineering – which often go by different names such as synthetic biology, gene-editing, or CRISPR – and whether or not to include foods produced through them, writes Sustainable Pulse.