On May 4 2018, USDA released a proposed rule on the GMO labeling legislation passed in July 2016. The public had 60 days to comment on the proposed rule before the July 3 deadline. Below are some of the issues within the draft rule.
- Potential GMO loopholes – The draft rule does not say whether or not companies will have to disclose GMO sugars and oils, or ingredients that have been created through new technologies such as gene-editing. It also leaves open what threshold the final rule will use.
- Use of the word “bioengineered” – The draft rule proposes exclusive use of the word “bioengineered,” rather than the universally accepted (and consumer-friendly) “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered.”
- Weak rules around digital disclosures – The proposed rule does not have strong rules for digital disclosures – such as requirements for size, color, and packaging – to ensure that electronic or digital disclosures reliably scan in stores.
- No comparable options – The legislation stated that USDA must work with retailers and manufactures to provide comparable options for the millions of Americans who do not have smartphones or adequate cell service. The proposed rule gives no comparable options for these consumers.
More information about the proposed rule
Just Label It rallied supporters and partners to weigh in with USDA. Over the 60 day comment period JLI helped send more than 50,000 messages to USDA from consumers asking for them to create strong and clear GMO labels, something our supporters have been fighting for since 2011. On July 3, JLI submitted the list of signatures to USDA.
On July 24, 2018, Senator Merkley, along with nine other senators, sent a letter to USDA expressing his concern with the draft rule and asking for numerous changes to be made for the final rule. Click here to read the letter.
This draft rule does not create the strong, clear GMO disclosure that consumers and Congress expected when the legislation was passed. Just Label It will continue to fight for consumer transparency until Americans have the ability to easily learn about GMO ingredients.
Comments Submitted by JLI partners:
Background on the legislation
On July 29, 2016 Congress passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (Pub. L. 114-216) – a law amending the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture establish a mandatory, national disclosure standard for GMO foods. Under the law, food manufacturers will be required to disclose the presence of GMOs in their food using either on-package text, a USDA-regulated symbol or an electronic or digital link (e.g. QR code), pursuant to rules. By law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required to have the final rules in place by July 2018.
Many questions were left unanswered in the legislation that USDA had to answer. In the fall of 2017, USDA posted 30 questions and asked for input from the public. Click here to see JLI’s response.
Comments submitted by JLI Partners:
Letters to USDA: