Proposed GMO Disclosure Rule Leaves Consumers in the Dark
Originally published in EWG’s AgMag blog by Scott Faber
Last week, the Department of Agriculture published a long-awaited draft rule implementing a groundbreaking disclosure law for foods with genetically engineered ingredients, commonly called GMOs.
Americans should have the right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown, just like consumers in 64 other nations. When Congress passed the first-ever national GMO food disclosure law in 2016 – and blocked states from passing or enforcing their own labeling laws – lawmakers promised consumers a disclosure system that would cover more ingredients and be simple to use.
But the draft rule proposed by the USDA last week could exclude almost three fourths of products with genetically engineered ingredients. What’s more, the rule proposes requiring confusing new terminology and symbols when companies make on-package disclosures. The proposed rule sets up few limits when companies choose to make digital disclosures. It also doesn’t provide practical solutions for consumers who need to scan a digital disclosure but don’t own smartphones or those who have lousy cell service.
Here are six ways the draft rule might leave consumers in the dark:
- All GMO Foods Disclosed? The draft rule does not say whether or not companies will have to disclose genetically engineered sugars and oils, or ingredients that have been created through new technologies such as gene-editing. Exempting foods made with GMO sugars and oils could exclude 70 percent of products with genetically engineered ingredients – even though Congress clearly intended for the new law to cover more products than Vermont’s first-in-the-nation state labeling law.
- Huge Loopholes? The draft rule might also exempt foods from the disclosure requirements of the new law when 5 percent or less of the ingredients, by weight, are genetically engineered. Again, exempting thousands of products through this loophole would undermine Congress’ clear intent to increase, not reduce, disclosure.