For years you worked with us to fight for federal GMO labeling, but the fight isn’t over yet. In 2016, Congress passed legislation requiring the disclosure of GMOs in our food. Now, the USDA is finally developing the rule that will establish the requirements for GMO labeling. The USDA is accepting public comments on the proposed rule and they need to hear from YOU.
The USDA has proposed a rule that fails to require clear, on-package labeling, but instead proposes the use of QR codes and deceptive labels with smiley faces, providing little meaningful information to consumers.
Rather than using terms that consumers recognize, such as GMO or GE, the USDA is proposing the on-package use of “bioengineered” or “BE.” This will only create further customer confusion and fails to provide clear on pack labeling.
The proposed rule fails to include ingredients derived from new unregulated technologies, such as gene editing. It also gives options to companies around disclosure that may lead to the exclusion of processed foods from the labeling requirement, even though these foods make up the majority of items in the grocery store and tend include GE corn and soy as ingredients.
The proposal also allows for web-based disclosures such as QR codes or URLs. Not only are these methods inconvenient for consumers, they are also inaccessible to many (including many poor and elderly consumers) and create a socioeconomic barrier to being informed. Everyone should have access to information about their food and be able to make informed decisions about what they feed their families.
The USDA’s existing proposal is clearly targeted at providing people with the least possible amount of information, serving big biotech and not consumers.
We need your voice now, more than ever, to get the strongest possible version of GMO labeling.
1) Reject “QR codes” and other discriminatory options to on-package labels.
QR codes are images that require a smartphone and reliable broadband connection to be read, which discriminates against more than 100 million Americans—especially rural, low-income, minority, and elderly communities. On-package URLs and text messaging should also be opposed, as these methods act as a disincentive for true transparency.
2) Allow for use of common, well-established labeling terms.
USDA proposes to restrict the terms “genetic engineering” and “GMO” despite their use for 30+ years by consumers, companies, and regulators. Instead, USDA would only allow the little-known term “bioengineered,” or the entirely unfamiliar acronym “BE”. Companies are already using the terms “GMO” & “GE” and should be permitted to continue.
3) Require neutral symbols.
The disclosure law permits the use of symbols instead of text. However, two of three symbols proposed by USDA are cartoonishly pro-biotech propaganda, with blatantly biased “smiley faces” (see below). Symbols should be content neutral and easy for consumers to understand.
4) Include all processed foods produced with genetic engineering.
The vast majority of GE foods are not whole foods but processed foods—such as cooking oils, sodas, and candies—made with GE corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets. Many of these products are so highly refined that current DNA tests may or may not “show” the GE content, despite the source of the ingredient(s) indisputably being GE.
5) Ensure future food products made with newer forms of genetic engineering are covered.
Companies are currently experimenting with newer forms of genetic engineering, such as gene-editing. Foods such as oranges, cacao, potatoes, soy, and canola “bioengineered” with CRISPR are in development. USDA must ensure that any foods made with these newer forms of GE are required to be labeled.
6) Harmonize with the European Union (EU) standard.
USDA proposes two options for disclosure of GE content arising from unintentional contamination—0.9% or 5%. The 0.9% threshold is best because it is high enough to cover contamination; has long been established in the EU and would facilitate trade with EU countries; and it aligns with existing standards of many US food companies.
7) Demand disclosure now, not postponed until 2022.
The labeling law requires regulations be finalized by July 29, 2018. However, USDA would allow companies to postpone GMO labeling until as late as 2022. This is an entirely unreasonable delay. Many companies are already labeling. Demand that companies be required to use GMO content labels by January 1, 2020.