GMO Labeling Issue Divides Food Makers & Farmers

GMO Labeling Issue Divides Food Makers & Farmers

Russell Nemetz
Russell Nemetz
USDA on Tuesday closed public comment on the issue of how to label foods that use ingredients derived from genetically modified organisms (GMO).

Emerging from the more than 11,000 comments collected from consumers, farm groups and multinational corporations is a debate between big food manufacturers and farmers on which ingredients should be disclosed on labels, as reported by Reuters.

Manufacturers seek a stricter take on the issue of labeling, arguing that even some GMO corn, soybeans and sugar beets should be required to have disclosures. Farmers disagree, contending that these foods or so highly refined that they no longer contain transformed genes by the time they're used for food; as in, they're effectively no different from non-GMO foods.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest told Reuters both sides are correct, but ultimately all products should be labeled.

"USDA should read the statute broadly and provide consumers with as much information as possible, but it should be scientifically accurate," CSPI's Gregory Jaffe is quoted as saying. "They need a different disclosure for those highly refined ingredients."

Meanwhile, a new study of opposition to genetically engineered food before and after mandatory labeling concluded that opposition to GMO food decreased by 19 percent after the labeling policy change. The research relied on a data set of more than 7,800 observations measuring opposition levels in a national control group compared with levels in Vermont, the only U.S. state to have enacted mandatory GMO labeling.

Congress passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard in July 2016, only weeks after a Vermont state law, first passed in 2014, took effect. The federal law prohibits states from mandating labels on food or seed that is genetically engineered. The bill also exempts foods in which meat and poultry are the main ingredients.

In May, USDA issued draft rules for GMO labeling on packaged foods. The agency is trying to meet a July 29 deadline for establishing a national standard.

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