The USDA Proposed GMO Labels Are Here—And They Might Confuse You
You have until July 3, 2018 to share your thoughts on the labels before the agency makes any final decisions.
Earlier this month, we reported on the United States Department of Agriculture's new proposed rule that would require certain manufacturers to display a label signifying that their product contains genetically modified ingredients.
After years of debating whether or not GMOs should be regulated, the USDA debuted a proposed set of labels this week to help consumers identify when there are GMOs in their food. The only problem? The labels are super confusing.
The proposal posted online by the USDA contains a few versions of the labels, but more than a few health officials have pointed out that these labels—which are bright, colorful, and somewhat whimsical—could be misconstrued for other signifiers already on the market, according to NPR's The Salt.
The liberal use of greens, blues, and yellows bears some resemblance to labels currently used to educate customers about healthy options (and non-GMO foods, ironically). A few critics have pointed out that some designs look like a smiley face, a graphic that one normally wouldn't associated with the concept of bioengineered foods.
If you're wondering what the two letters "b" and "e" represent in the design, it's for "bioengineered," which some health officials think is a confusing term for shoppers.
"It's misleading and confusing to consumers to now switch that up and use a totally different term, bioengineered, that has not been the standard commonplace nomenclature for all of this time," says George Kimbrell, the legal director for the Center for Food Safety, in an interview with NPR.
The USDA won't comment on the proposed label designs until they're finalized after the July 3, 2018 deadline.
As we previously reported, the new guidelines for GMOs in the marketplace exclude genetically modified sugars and oils, and foods that contain GMOs in predetermined amounts.
While it wasn't clear if the USDA would seriously consider labeling GMOs as "bioengineered" in their first announcement, these designs could be a sign that the agency is planning to officially adopt the new moniker instead.
According to earlier reports, food manufacturers will have three distinct options when it comes to labeling their GMO-enhanced foods as so. These labels are the most visible of the three options, which also include a scannable QR code for interested customers, or a one-liner on the exterior of the product's packaging.
It's expected that the exempt GMOs from the USDA's new guidelines will include soybeans, sugar beets, and highly refined sugars and oils, despite complaints that these exemptions cover more than 70 percent of all GMO foods available in supermarket aisles. Changes could come to the guidelines and exemptions, as well as these proposed labels, after the public comment period ends later this summer.