Food safety advocates are expressing sharp disappointment with the final federal GMO labeling rule, released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
While industry-friendly Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue asserted in a press statement that the new standard for foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO) would boost “the transparency of our nation’s food system” and ensure “clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food,” groups like the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP)—and even food giants like Nestlé—say it does nothing of the sort.
“It is obvious that this rule is intended to hide, not disclose, information about genetically modified foods,” said IATP senior attorney Sharon Treat.
Among the concerns being raised is that the rule, published Friday in the Federal Register and with implementation set to begin in 2020, refers not to the widely recognized phrase “genetically-modified food” but rather “bioengineered (BE) food.”
“USDA’s prohibition of the well-established terms, GE and GMO, on food labels will confuse and mislead consumers,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at the Center for Food Safety.
To make the disclosure, food producers have four options: text, a friendly-looking symbol, an electronic or digital link, or a text message. According to Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter, the symbol suggests “to consumers the product is natural and sustainable, when genetically engineered foods are anything but.”
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