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Policy Issues > Public Comment on GMO Labeling

23 May 2018

Public Comment Period Open on GMO Labeling — In 2016 Congress enacted legislation on the labeling of GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) ingredients in our food, legislation which is popularly known as the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know). In spite of the fact that an ABC poll in 2015 indicated that 93% of the American people believed that GMO foods should be labeled, the final legislation, referred to as the Stabenow-Roberts Compromise, denies states the right to require labeling of food containing GMO ingredients, provides for weakened “labeling” via QR codes readable only with smartphones, and establishes no enforcement mechanisms or penalties for non-compliance.

Now the USDA has released new draft rules for the labeling of GMOs—but instead of calling them GMOs, it uses the term “BE”, for “bioengineered foods”, in a clear effort to make them seem less threatening. The proposed symbol tries to make these ingredients, which are banned in 300 regions around the world [2], seem benign and even friendly. The rules also propose to exempt “highly refined” ingredients containing GMOs such as sugars and oils—this would exempt up to 70% of the GMO ingredients in our food.  

The public has an opportunity to comment on the proposed rules, and the “BE” icon, from now until July 9th. Please take the time to go to regulations.gov/document?D=AMS-TM-17-0050-0004 and let your voice be heard on this issue. Suggested points to emphasize include:

  • The symbols proposed by the USDA are not value neutral and are disparaging to non-GE products.
  • The term “bioengineered” is confusing and a departure from the terms genetically engineered (GE) or genetically modified organism (GMO) understood by the public.
  • The USDA should recommend the text used to state “Produced with genetic engineering” or “Partially produced with genetic engineering” or use a neutral symbol.
  • The USDA should label all “highly refined” GE products like cooking oil, high fructose corn syrup, and the like.
  • Say NO to confusing QR codes and text messages that would make shopping trips longer, be costlier, and discriminate against those with less resources.

More information on the draft rule and GMOs in general can be found at www.nongmoproject.org/.