GMO food labeling regulations go into effect Jan. 1, but face ongoing litigation by the Center for Food Safety

The Center for Food Safety's ongoing litigation against the final labeling regulations claim deception and discrimination.

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While a new federal law that requires the labeling of genetically engineered or genetically modified organisms goes into effect today, the Center for Food Safety’s ongoing litigation against the final labeling regulations claims deception. The final GMO food labeling regulations, which were issued by the Trump administration’s USDA, “leave the majority of GMO-derived foods unlabeled; discriminate against tens of millions of Americans by allowing the use of QR codes as a stand-alone for labeling products; prohibit the use of the widely-known terms ‘GMO’ and ‘GE;’ and prohibit retailers from providing more information to consumers.”

The labeling regulations for the mandatory disclosure of food produced with genetic engineered (GE) ingredients was released by the USDA in 2018 after President Obama signed into law in 2016 a federal disclosure program.

“Consumers have fought for decades for their right to know what’s in their food and how it’s produced,” Meredith Stevenson, attorney for Center for Food Safety and counsel in the case, said. “But instead of providing meaningful labeling, USDA’s final rules will only create more uncertainty for consumers, retailers, and manufacturers.”

According to the Center for Food and Safety, the final regulations limit the text wording on the label to “bioengineered” instead of the more commonly used terms such as GE or GMO. The regulations also restrict which foods require disclosure. The “USDA excluded ‘highly refined’ products, unless the GE material is ‘detectable,’ the Center for Food Safety’s case challenges. And with the labeling mandated at the federal level, the federal disclosure program “invalidates state GE seed labeling laws and prohibits future GE seed labeling laws in violation of states’ rights to regulate in the absence of federal regulation,” according to the Center for Food Safety

“These regulations are not about informing the public but rather designed to allow corporations to hide their use of genetically engineered ingredients from their customers,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, said. “It is a regulatory scam which we are seeking to rescind in federal court.

The Center for Food Safety is also challenging the “USDA’s unprecedented allowance of electronic or digital disclosure on packaging, also known as ‘QR code’ or ‘smartphone’ labeling, without requiring additional on-package labeling.”

“…we are urging our million CFS members and others to become citizen investigators and find and expose the companies that are using QR codes instead of on-package text or symbol labeling, thereby trying to keep us in the dark about what they have put in our food,” Kimbrell said.

The Center for Food Safety, who represents a coalition of grocers and retailers, filed a lawsuit against the USDA in federal court in 2020 and has been fighting to overturn the final regulations since.

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