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GMO Labeling Requirements – Should You Wait and See?

By: Ann Marie VegaOn: October 26, 2016

On July 29th, President Obama signed a new law that would require all food labels to declare whether the item contains genetically modified ingredients. Companies will be allowed to either place words on the package, or provide a QR code, 1-800 number, or website for consumers to visit for more information.

The federal law pre-empts a Vermont ruling that requires food to say, "produced with genetic engineering."  The good news for the packaged food industry is that there is one national law, and you will not have to track state-by-state laws. 

The Agriculture Department has two years to write the rules, although some large packaged food producers are already updating packaging with QR codes in preparation for the rules.

The most ubiquitous genetically modified agricultural crops—corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets—would require labeling in their unrefined state. But as the FDA points out, many highly-refined products that come from genetically-modified sources, such as oil made from soy or canola, will not have to be labeled because they don’t fit the law’s definition of “bioengineering” and don’t necessarily contain genetic material.  The USDA Secretary of Agriculture will ultimately decide what exactly will be required to be labeled.

It may be wise to set your strategy now, while you are already touching all of your packaging for the FDA required Nutrition Facts label update.  All of your packages have to be up to date by July 2018; just about the same timing that the GMO rules will be fully defined.  By taking action now, all that will be needed is to update the website.