American government introduces mandatory GMO food labelling in the US
President Barack Obama has signed the GMO bill
Food and beverage producers will soon be required under a new American federal law to declare if any genetically modified (GMO) ingredients have been used in a product.
The new legislation, which was an bipartisan agreement, will mandate that companies make the declaration on the packaging either through text, a label or an electronic code which can be read by smart phones.
The US Agriculture Department has been given two years to formalise implementation. This leaves open a possibility that something might change in the interim.
The Federal decision to introduce the law comes after US state, Vermont, started to enforce a GMO labelling law in July 2016. The law was first passed in 2014 and will be void with the new federal law coming into effect.
Advocates for the Vermont law have campaigned against the new federal law, saying it was not as stringent as the new Vermont state law. Whilst the federal law gives food and beverage producers three options for declaring GMO ingredients, Vermont’s laws required producers use the term “produced with genetic engineering”.
“Companies will also be able to opt out of clear accessible on-package labelling by using digital “QR” codes that will become unreadable by approximately half of rural and low income Americans without access to smartphones or cell service,” a group of GMO activists claimed.
Some parties against the law in its current form say companies will avoid labelling their products as GMO if they contain oils and sweeteners made from GMO ingredients as it removes any proof of GMO for refined oils and sugars.
How GMO food is regulated in Australia
GM food in Australia is regulated through Standard 1.5.2 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
GM foods, ingredients, additives, or processing aids that contain novel DNA or protein must be labelled with the words “genetically modified” within Australia. However, there are a number of carve-out exceptions spelt out in Standard 1.5.2 such as for refined products.