The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) joined several large food companies in calling for stricter requirements on labeling GMO ingredients during the comment period for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. GMA requested the agency reevaluate the proposed rules for labeling GMO’s, or genetically modified organisms. The document cites an interest in transparency and concern regarding consumer trust as the underlying reasons for reassessing the rule’s proposed requirements.
“Today, consumers are seeking more and more information about the products they purchase and our industry continually strives to make that information available in the most transparent manner possible. Our ability to provide consumers with the information they seek –and in a way that they understand –will build trust in brands, industry and government institutions,” GMA stated in its written comments on the proposed rule.
The comment period for the USDA’s rule recently concluded, receiving over 11,000 comments from food companies, farm groups, and consumers. Many commenters, including GMA, believe that products should be labeling GMO ingredients when they include corn, soybeans, or sugar beets, as many of those crops are genetically modified. Opponents of this type of labeling requirement argue that it would not accurately represent the overall product, as highly refined foods do not always have detectable amounts of those ingredients.
GMO’s have become an increasingly polarizing topic in recent years and the term itself has also become a point of contention. The USDA has opted to use the language “bioengineered food” and has adopted a very specific approach to what is considered genetic modification.
A possible solution to the issue of GMO ingredients and what requires a label would be a separate and specific label that would be less all-encompassing and help address potential consumer confusion. In the interest of clarity, Whole Foods recently caused quite a stir when the company announced it would hold off on any GMO labeling requirements until USDA issues a decision on the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.