For the past 20 years, the United States government has upheld laws designed to keep consumers in the dark about the nature of the foods they purchase and eat. At the time, it didn’t seem possible to many observers that federal officials would block the public’s efforts to force food producers to identify all GM foods.
GM stands for Genetically Modified – altered in a scientific laboratory.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are “living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods.”
Foods born of human intervention came onto the scene in the 1990s. GM crops were hailed by Big Agriculture and Big Government as the only solution to world hunger.
The first crop GMOs were developed to survive direct, repeated applications of herbicide, produce an insecticide or both. More recently, GMOs are being engineered to create a resistance to browning in apples.
Opponents of GM foods have judged them as “unnatural” and certainly completely untested for either short- or long-term human and environmental impact and safety. Critics say men are “playing God” and interfering with natural biological processes.
The pro-GMO coalition of food producers and governmental agencies promote themselves as saviors and pioneers. However, they have no historical, scientific data about the health effects of GMOs from which anyone can draw informed conclusions about environmental impact.
The fact of the matter is that all these GMO scientific experts are winging it, making it up as they go along.
This worked for them until entire nations began to ban GM agricultural practices and products. The group GMO-free Europe has raised consciousness in a multitude of EU member nations and other countries about the potential dangers of GMOs. These regions have banned the use of GMO technology until tests prove it is safe.
Also and notably, the promised benefits to address world famine have not been forthcoming:
“Despite biotech industry promises, there is no evidence that any of the GMOs currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit,” reported the Non-GMO project.
Sixty-four countries around the world, including Australia, Japan, and all of the countries in the EU, require genetically modified foods to be labeled as such.
Canada and the United States have been notable exceptions.
Now, public pressure and consumer advocates in the U.S. have prompted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to mandate a new GMO labeling law, to become effective in early 2022.
In December 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.
This official federal standard had been required in July 2016 by the USDA to disclose foods that are or may be bioengineered. It took two and a half years to comply with this legal order.
Perdue stated what lobbyists for GMO labeling have been saying for the past two decades:
“The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard increases the transparency of our nation’s food system, establishing guidelines for regulated entities on when and how to disclose bioengineered ingredients. This ensures clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food.”
The Ag Secretary said the Standard also prevents an uncoordinated state-by-state system that could be confusing to consumers.
The Standard will be implemented on January 1, 2020. Small food manufacturers will be exempted until January 1, 2021. The mandatory compliance date is January 1, 2022.
The USDA also published a List of Bioengineered Foods – or BE products – “to identify the crops or foods that are available in a bioengineered form throughout the world and for which regulated entities must maintain records. These records will inform regulated entities about whether they must make a bioengineered food disclosure.”
Here are the foods on the USDA list of BE products that will have to be labeled as genetically modified under the new federal legislation:
- Apple (ArcticTM varieties)
- Eggplant (BARI Bt Begun varieties)
- Papaya (ringspot virus-resistant varieties)
- Pineapple (pink flesh varieties)
- Salmon (AquAdvantage®)
- Squash (summer)
Regulated entities have options to perform legal disclosure, including by text message and electronic and/or digital link. Small food manufacturers and small deliveries will only need to supply consumers with a phone number or web address.
Even though the USDA-mandated labeling on bio-engineered foods is a step in the right direction, the new law has already raised concerns that it doesn’t go far enough. Many GMO foods will be exempted under the new federal labeling guidelines.
The very term “BE” (bioengineered) is thought to be a marketing ploy to avoid food producers’ having to use the more controversial term “GMO.” Bioengineered is a medical term and is not part of the USDA’s Agricultural Biotechnology Glossary, supporting the contention that the new acronym was invented to confuse and mislead consumers.