Consumers have made it clear: they want to know what is in their food. The draft rule for mandatory GMO labeling, recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), fails to meet consumer demand. The proposed rule, the “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard,” is not transparent and will result in continued consumer confusion regarding GMOs.
For starters, the proposed methods of GMO disclosure by companies will not make it easy for consumers to identify products containing GMOs. The USDA is recommending that GMOs be called “bioengineered” on disclosure statements— instead of using the language that consumers are familiar with and, quite frankly, expect: “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered.”
Under the rule, companies can also disclose GMO ingredients using a symbol. Proposed designs include smiley faces and smiley suns with the letters “BE.”
Lastly, companies can use QR codes—symbols that require a digital reader—for ingredient disclosure. However, relying on such technology is problematic as it limits access to consumers with smartphones and cellular reception.
The USDA’s draft rule on mandatory GMO labeling also misses the mark in terms of GMO labeling requirements. It doesn’t clearly mandate whether highly refined ingredients, such as sugars and oils, will be labeled. These ingredients are found in 70% of the products made with GMOs! Furthermore, the rule doesn’t draw hard lines regarding advancing GMO technology, including rapidly advancing gene-editing techniques.