A new GMO Food Labeling Law is now in effect. It is supposed to make it easier for you to avoid foods containing genetically modified organisms. But will it? Many experts are saying the law will only create more confusion.
Under the new law, foods and beverages that contain GMOs must display a new Bioengineered label. The USDA has left it up to companies to decide whether their product requires the label. So how will they decide? According to the USDA, the label is required if a finished product contains detectable levels of lab-modified genetic materials that cannot be found in nature or otherwise created through conventional breeding.
The idea is that by avoiding products with the new bioengineered label, consumers can avoid GMOs. However, it may not be that simple. The USDA’s definition of bioengineered is confusing and could be exploited by manufacturers. At face value, the definition does not include all GMO’s. And there is little transparency in the process of determining which products will display the label.
While we have long been calling for a clearer way to determine which foods are GMO free, the new law falls short. It leaves too many scenarios where a food could contain GMOs but not be required to display the bioengineered label. First, any company with annual sales under 2.5 million dollars is automatically exempt from the requirement.
The USDA also added wide exemptions for highly refined ingredients. Foods made with high fructose corn syrup or soybean oil need not be labeled as bioengineered. The USDA has also allowed exemptions for numerous crops: apples, eggplants, potatoes, pineapples, and papayas. Even salmon is exempt from the new labeling law.
The new GMO law also fails to address products from animals fed GMOs. Cows and chickens, for example, could be fed GMO corn or soy beans. If the resulting eggs, dairy, chicken, or beef did not contain detectable levels of GMO, they will not need to display the label.
It is also possible that, left to their own discretion, manufacturers may simply choose not to use the label, even on products that do clearly contain GMOs.
With so many exemptions, anyone looking for tools to help them avoid GMOs is unlikely to be content with the new law. Rather than provide clear data, it introduces more confusion.
Instead of relying on the new bioengineered label to steer clear of GMOs, look for the Non-GMO Project’s Verified label. This label, featuring a butterfly, may be a better indicator that a product was evaluated by a third party and meets the Non-GMO Project’s standard.
The new bioengineered law itself does not go far enough in assisting consumers in making informed decisions. Therefore, it is unlikely to create a positive change in consumer choices. In order to avoid GMO ingredients, you’ll need to research products individually. Don’t rely on these labels.
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What To Remember:In response to calls for better GMO labeling, the USDA has established a new law.Many products are now required to display a bioengineered label.However, there are too many exemptions, making the system confusing for consumers.The absence of a bioengineered label still does not guarantee a product is free of GMOs.