The USDA is delayed in finalizing the regulations of the law mandating the labeling of genetically modified food. While the regulations were originally meant to be in place by July 2018, Andrea Huberty, senior policy analyst for the USDA AMS Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program, said that the USDA is “a little behind to get this done by 2018," due in large part to the change in administration.
"We’re still on track, but a little behind,” she said Tuesday at the Food Label Conference in Washington, D.C.
The law made GMO labeling mandatory but charged the USDA with defining the products that will require labels, the amount of GMO ingredients in an individual product that would require a label, and the appearance of the labels themselves.
Any delay in finalizing these regulations may jeopardize the federal law’s preemption of more stringent state and local laws, such as Vermont’s GMO labeling law, which was originally set to take effect on July 1 of last year, reports Food Dive.
Certain regulations have nevertheless already been decided upon. For example, the GMO labeling law will not pertain to meat, poultry, dairy, or egg products that come from animals that have eaten GMO feed.
The USDA has also discussed the appearance of the symbol that producers of GMO foods can use on their packaging. Brazil, which also requires GMO labeling, uses a symbol that, Huberty notes, “looks like a warning sign.” The USDA label will not.
The symbol is one of three options that producers of GMO foods can use on their packages, along with on-package text or a smartphone-scannable QR code. Early worries about the QR codes being problematic for shoppers without smartphones are being addressed in a study on these challenges, currently being carried out by Deloitte.
USDA also plans to implement public education campaigns to teach consumers about the safety of GMO foods and what GMO symbols and labels mean. The most recent federal spending bill included $3 million for these programs.
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