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October 2016 Issue

GMO Labeling Update

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food stream continue to be a hot topic, and the issue of how to label them has been a source of debate. Vermont passed a law that required labels on all products containing GMO ingredients, which was set to go into effect on July 1, 2016. However, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a federal GMO labeling bill that would preempt state-led GMO labeling laws, essentially nullifying the Vermont law.

President Obama just signed this bill into law, which means the USDA will have two years to set up a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure statement which manufacturers will have to comply with a year after the standard is agreed upon. There will be some flexibility over how the disclosure will be made on food labels, such as the ability to use QR codes (mobile phone readable bar codes) or website addresses to gain information, instead of statements regarding GMO ingredients on the label.

Critics say that this flexibility means consumers will have to use a smartphone to determine if foods have GMO ingredients, but others support the new law because it is a mandatory federal law which may be a better solution than state-led laws in the long run. Look for more information on GMO status on food labels in the coming months.