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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on Thursday announced its long-awaited rule on the labeling of foods containing genetically engineered, or GMO, ingredients. Just don't expect the letters GMO to appear on these products.
Under the new "National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard," such items will feature the term "bioengineered" or BE foods.
From Jan. 1, 2022, food companies will have four options to make this disclosure, according to the USDA's fact sheet:
- On-package text, e.g. "Bioengineered Food," or "Contains a Bioengineered Food Ingredient."
- Electronic or digital disclosure—must include instructions to "Scan here for more food information" or similar language, and include a phone number
- Text message disclosure
- Or a USDA-approved symbol:
After years of a contentious battle that pitted food and chemical giants against state-level GMO mandates, President Obama signed a law in July 2016 that directed the Secretary of Agriculture to come up with a national labeling standard for products that contain genetically modified ingredients.
Critics of the new labeling standard say it allows food companies to use QR codes, a website URL or 1-800 numbers for this disclosure rather than a clear, national labeling standard.
"This rule is filled with loopholes that will allow manufacturers to use digital codes and other technology that make GMO disclosure more difficult for consumers than simple on-package labels. Many people don't have access to smartphones needed to scan QR codes, or access to a good signal while shopping," Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter said in an emailed statement.
In today's announcement, Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said the new labeling standard increases the transparency of the nation's food system, and ensures clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food.
"The standard also avoids a patchwork state-by-state system that could be confusing to consumers," he added.
But Gregory Jaffe of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), which advocated for term "genetically engineered" on packaging, argued that the new labeling standard could sow confusion as consumers might not be familiar with the term "bioengineered."
Secondly, Jaffe said, the new standard allows an exemption for highly processed ingredients such as sugar and vegetable oils that are chemically indistinguishable from their non-GMO counterparts.
"Most studies have shown that consumers expect highly processed ingredients to be labeled and many food manufacturers want to provide that information. CSPI agrees with the decision to disclose highly processed ingredients as 'derived from bioengineering' but disagrees with USDA's decision to not mandate that disclosure," he wrote.
The vast majority of sugar beet, corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically engineered for insect resistance or herbicide tolerance, Agri-Pulse noted.
Representatives for corn, soybean and sugar beet growers approved of the final regulations. "America's corn farmers need a consistent, transparent system to provide consumers with information without stigmatizing important, safe technology," National Corn Growers Association president Lynn Chrisp of Nebraska said, as quoted by Agri-Pulse.
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‘Companies Should Not Be Allowed to Use Hazardous Ingredients in Products People Use’: Michelle Pfeiffer Speaks Up for Safer Cosmetics
The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.
Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.
The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.
By Julia Conley
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Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.
President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.
"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.