President signs national biotech disclosure into law
Aug. 2, 2016-President Barack Obama on July 29 signed into law a Farm Bureau-supported measure that puts a stop to the harmful patchwork of state GMO labeling laws by setting in place a uniform, national disclosure system that will provide balanced, accurate information to consumers.
"For decades, biotechnology has made it possible for farmers to grow safe and healthful crops while reducing their environmental impact. We are pleased that Congress and the administration have moved swiftly to prevent consumer confusion and protect agricultural innovation," American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a statement.
The law is based on a mandatory disclosure mechanism that requires food companies to provide information through an on-package statement, symbol or some other means of electronic disclosure abiding by standards developed and regulated by USDA. It gives USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service one year to study consumer access to digitally disclosed information and two years to finalize a rule implementing the law.
Some other key elements of the newly enacted law:
- Strong federal preemption effective date of enactment that protects interstate commerce and prevents state-by-state labeling laws.
- USDA will direct formal rulemaking to set national definitions and standards for the labeling of products that may contain ingredients derived from biotechnology; prohibits the use of disparaging information relative to biotechnology.
- Strong, narrow definition of bioengineering for labeling purposes aimed at protecting emerging/new breeding techniques.
- Food manufacturers defined as "very small" would be exempt from the disclosure requirement entirely. AMS will set the thresholds.
- Meat and dairy products would not be considered GMO products just because the animals were fed GMO feed, and products such as soup in which meat is the lead ingredient would be exempt, even if there is a minor biotech ingredient such as high fructose corn syrup. However, animals that are genetically engineered, such as some types of salmon, would fall under the disclosure requirements.
- USDA would have no authority to issue or require recalls of products that do not comply with the labeling requirements, and there would be no federal penalties for violations. States, however, could impose fines for violations of the standards under state consumer protection rules.
- Products that are certified organic by USDA could be labeled as non-GMO.
AMS has established a website for the new biotech program. The website can be found here: https://www.ams.usda.gov/rules-regulations/gmo