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Court Smacks USDA for Lack of Transparency in GMO Labeling

Years of legislative and court battles over the labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods took another turn this week when a federal court determined on Tuesday that the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) erred in allowing food companies to label GE products simply with digital codes that consumers have to scan, without any accompanying disclosure options.

Under USDA rules that took full effect earlier this year, food made with genetically modified crops can be labeled simply as “bioengineered” (BE), or come with a QR code guiding consumers to more information online, among other options.

But the court said those rules did not comply with the law, and found that the USDA knew that allowing  “standalone electronic disclosure” would not provide consumers “sufficient access” to disclosures about bioengineering involved in creating certain products.

The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard was passed six years ago as an amendment to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 in order to nullify state laws mandating that foods made with GMO soybeans, corn, or other GMO crops be labeled as such.