The public comment period is now open on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s just unveiled proposal for food labeling of products using GMOs—a plan that would have labels without the words “genetically modified” or “genetically engineered,” but instead adorned with cheerful images.
According to Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, the proposal represents “a gift to industry from our now Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, who authored the legislation to squash the Vermont GMO labeling law and mandatory labels.”
The proposal follows President Barack Obama’s 2016 signature on an industry-approved bill—dubbed the DARK Act—that required national labeling standard rules, and which critics blasted for having loopholees and lacking a mandate for adequate GMO labels. That law, which pre-empted Vermont’s first-of-its-kind labeling law, also required a deadline for the final rules by July 29, 2018, hence the USDA’s rollout this week.
Among the problems with the proposal, says Hauter, is that the “rule refers to GMOs as ‘bioengineered,’ or BE foods. This is a deceptive strategy because most consumers don’t know what that means.”
Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety, agreed, saying, “USDA’s exclusion of the well-established terms, GE and GMO, as options will confuse and mislead consumers, and the agency must instead allow the use of those terms.”
As for the images that will bear the acronym BE—”Wait ’till you see them,” writes Katherine Paul, associate director of the Organic Consumers Association. “All bright and cheery, with sunburst and smiley-faced images—but without ‘GMO’ appearing anywhere on the labels.”
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“The images are just as insulting to consumers as the law, which the chemical and junk food industry lobbyists spent $400 million to pass—under the specious name of the ‘Safe and Affordable Food Labeling Act,'” Paul said.
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