7 Things You Should Know About the GMO Labeling Law
Beginning on January 1st, 2020, Genetically Modified Organism (GMO), and Bioengineered (BE) foods will be labeled. As with any law, there are some things that you may not have taken into consideration, that you should be aware of. This law is composed of 239-pages and it certainly has its fair share of overlooked points.
Here’s your guide to understanding the BE labeling law.
- Bioengineered is More Than GMO
Most of us are familiar with the term GMO, but there are actually several other ways to alter the DNA of food. In 2019, we will see the first “gene-edited” foods on store shelves. Gene-edited foods are edited using CRISPR, TALEN or similar gene-editing technologies. These gene-editing technologies will be used to create things like soybeans that produce less trans fat, dairy cattle that do not grow horns and even wheat designed to produce three times more fiber.
2. BE Labels May Be Hard to See
If you are hopeful that the can of soup in your hand doesn’t contain any BE food ingredients simply because you do not see an obvious label, take a second look. Though the USDA has an approved logo which food manufacturers can opt to use, there are three other ways the BE label may be printed. The other methods of labeling are; plain text stating, “bioengineered food” or “contains bioengineered food ingredient”, a QR Code or similar scannable image which will give more information, or by printing a phone number on the packaging which will lead you to more information by phone call or text.
3. Not All Foods With BE Ingredients Will Be Labeled
There are some exceptions to the labeling law. The most prominent exclusions would be foods served at restaurants as well as ready to eat or prepared foods from grocery stores. Other excluded products will be most beers, wines and liquors. Pet foods will not require a label either. There are a few more exclusions, but those mentioned above will be the most common.
In Fact, the next point is crazy!!
4. Not all Gene-Edited Foods Will Be Labeled
This point may be disappointing for those that are hopeful that all gene-edited foods will be labeled. According to the definition of Bioengineered, any foods that have been gene-edited in a manner that could have been achieved through “conventional breeding” will not require a label, so long as no genetically manipulated DNA is present. For the sake of this labeling law, no definition for “conventional breeding” has been given. This can leave a lot of wiggle room for food manufacturers that can argue that their gene-edited food products are not subject to the BE label in accordance with the definition of “bioengineered” in section 66.1 of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.
5. There Are Currently 13 BE Foods
Though more BE foods are on the way, there are currently 13 BE foods which are recognized by the USDA. All 13 are listed below, but you can visit the USDA’s page anytime to see if there are any updates. The 13 BE foods which currently exist according to the USDA are:
Alfalfa, Apple (ArcticTM varieties) , Canola, Corn, Cotton, Eggplant (BARI Bt Begun varieties) , Papaya (ringspot virus-resistant varieties) , Pineapple (pink flesh varieties) , Potato, Salmon Soybean, Squash (summer) , and Sugarbeets.
6. The Labeling Law Won’t Take Full Effect Until 2022
Though labeling will begin for businesses on January 1st, 2020, this is only a voluntary starting date. Large food manufacturers will have until January 1st, 2021 to come into compliance with the law. Small businesses will have until January 1st, 2022 to come into full compliance. So don’t expect to see BE foods labeled overnight.
7. BE Labeling Began in 2012
In 2012 there was a national effort to pass a GMO labeling law in California. The law was known as Prop 37. Though Prop 37 ultimately failed soon after that, in 2013, Vermont passed a bill which would require the labeling of GMOs. Though other states began to draw up their own legislation, it became clear that the federal government had to step in and simplify things. In 2016 Congress directed the USDA to establish GMO labeling laws, nullifying VT’s labeling law. Now, over 7 years later we are only a year away from seeing GMO’s and all BE foods labeled.