By Catherine Haug, July 2016 (Image, right, from Organic Consumers Association, used with permission)
We have all worked so hard to defeat the DARK Act – the bill that kept coming back, written by Monsanto and other chemical and seed companies. It’s all been for naught, as the most recent version, a so-called compromise bill sponsored by a Republican and a Democrat, was passed by both houses and signed by our President.
I’ve copied a message below, originally from the White House about the bill for your reference. I’m so bummed. Those of us who want mandatory GMO labeling in clear words (not QR codes or telephone numbers) now have serious work to do. Plus the new law allows some GMO ingredients not to be labeled, and also allows GMO seeds not to be labeled. What’s up with that?
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) now has the responsibility to implement the law. This includes undertaking a study to determine whether consumers – we the people – face challenges related to our access to electronic disclosures (read the attached email for more)/
We, the consumers, have a responsibility to make sure the USDA knows we don’t like this plan and we have trouble discerning what does/does not contain GMO ingredients.
Note that it will take a while for all food producers to get their products labeled (and replace all the products out there on grocers’ shelves that are not labeled, with properly labeled products), so you may not see any of the 3 allowed types of labels for a few weeks/months:
- Statement that product contains GMOs;
- QR code that provides GMO information when read by a smart phone;
- Telephone number to call or url to look up to get GMO information.
I’ve been watching the shelves at Harvest Foods for Campbell’s products to show their GMO statement (“Partially produced with genetic engineering”), and so far have not seen any (all the products stored in warehouses before they started labeling are still out there). See my May 31 post: New GMO Label from Campbells for more.
The Whitehouse email
An update on labeling:
In recent years, Americans have expressed increased interest in understanding how their food is produced — including whether it was produced using bioengineering (sometimes referred to as genetically modified organisms or GMOs).
This Administration is well aware of that interest, and we take it seriously.
As mentioned in this petition , earlier in July, both the Senate and the House passed a bill to require food manufacturers to disclose whether food includes ingredients that have been bioengineered. The legislation provides flexibility for companies to choose from the following options:
- A text statement or symbol directly on the food packaging itself indicating bioengineered ingredients
- A digital QR (Quick Response) code that customers can scan with their smartphone if they want to learn about bioengineered ingredients
- Smaller companies could also offer a phone number or URL on the package that consumers can access for more info
Before the new disclosure program is put in place, the law calls for a study to be conducted to assess whether challenges exist related to consumers’ access to electronic disclosures. If the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) determines that consumers would not have sufficient access to the information, the bill directs USDA to provide for alternative methods of disclosure. USDA will do everything possible to ensure that the program provides information in an equitable way.
Today, the President signed this legislation. While there is broad consensus that foods produced using bioengineering are safe, we appreciate the bipartisan effort to address consumers’ interest in knowing more about their food, including whether it includes bioengineered ingredients. You can learn more about this legislation here or email questions to GMOlabeling@ams.usda.gov.
Through the USDA’s National Organic Program, consumers can already identify food that was produced without any genetically engineered ingredients. Whenever you see the USDA Organic seal (seen here), it means that the food was grown without the use of prohibited pesticides, genetic engineering, synthetic fertilizers, or irradiation.
Your voice and input will be important throughout the implementation process of this legislation and in helping design the best disclosure program possible.
USDA has established a working group to develop a timeline for rulemaking and to ensure an open and transparent process for effectively establishing this new program. We are committed to providing multiple opportunities for engagement, such as listening sessions and the opportunity for the public to provide written comments. This process will ensure you have the opportunity to provide the Executive Branch with input on the attributes of the bioengineered food disclosure program as it is developed.
We look forward to your continuous engagement and will keep you posted here as these opportunities arise.
— The We the People Team