The long-awaited USDA national disclosure requirements for labeling genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food has arrived. The agency made the announcement today.
The labeling rules are set to take effect as early as January 2020. But manufacturers have until January 1, 2022, to fully comply.
Consumers may still find the label designations confusing, however. Labels can use the word "bioengineered" instead of genetically modified. And labels can contain no words at all, using instead a symbol or a digital link code consumers can scan for full product details and GMO disclosure.
The prospect of USDA guidelines finally came to fruition in 2016 after Congress passed a law requiring labeling of GMOs in food.
Genetic engineering is a hotly contested issue; companies like Bayer and Monsanto have been targeted by food safety and environmental groups for the technology.
The long-term risks in consuming foods that have been genetically modified aren't fully understood yet. The industry insists the products are as safe as non-GMO crops and ingredients, a position largely upheld by the federal government and the delay in any regulations.
But it's the companion herbicides, namely Monsanto's glyphosate-based Roundup that's been at the heart of the GMO debate. It's been linked to an increase in weed resistance, forcing farmers to use stronger applications and more dangerous herbicides. It's also been linked to an increased risk of cancer. In a monumental decision, a California judge recently ruled Monsanto at fault for a groundskeeper's terminal lymphoma which he says was caused by the herbicide.
Leading natural supermarket chain Whole Foods had pledged to launch in-store labeling on all food, personal care, and household items that contain GMOs. Its labeling system was set to take effect in 2018, but after Congress passed the labeling law, it paused its labeling program.
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