Labels for Genetically Engineered Food

Labels for Genetically Engineered Food

Rick Worthington
Rick Worthington
Some food and farming groups are scratching their heads over proposed labels for genetically engineered foods.

The long-awaited labels released by the United States Department of Agriculture stem from a 2016 federal law requiring the disclosure of foods produced using genetic engineering. It's also something Farmers and Ranchers had been pushing hard for...

But critics, including Paul Dorrance with Pastured Providence Farmstead, believe the proposal falls short, saying the USDA essentially rebranded genetically engineered foods to make them more palatable.

"Now they're calling it 'bioengineered,' or 'B.E.,'" Dorrance said. "Right from the very beginning USDA is choosing a confusing, unknown type of label for something folks have been calling something else, like the commonly used term of 'genetically engineered foods.'"

Some industry organizations argue the term "genetically engineered" has generated negative connotations, and the new "B.E." label is more impartial.

There are also concerns about the label symbols, which Dorrance pointed out are not value-neutral.

"They're bright yellow/green and colorful, picture of a leaf and a little bit of a farm behind this 'B.E.' And literally a smiley face, the sun is smiling," he said. "It's this 'happy thoughts,' clearly a biased symbol in favor of genetically engineered and genetically modified organisms. "

A recent poll found most disapprove of genetically engineered foods, and a majority are in favor of G.E. food labeling.

USDA is accepting public comments on the draft proposal until July 3.

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