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GMO Labeling is Finally Here (Sort Of)

GMO DISCLOSURE IS HERE: You’ll notice we aren’t calling it GMO labeling. That’s because the rule that officially took effect Jan. 1 is not really mandatory labeling, but mandatory disclosure — and only in certain cases.

This used to be a hot-button issue. MA readers will recall years ago consumers and advocacy groups were pushing hard for mandatory labeling at the state level. The tiny but mighty state of Vermont actually implemented such a policy for a hot second — a move that had food and ag companies thoroughly freaked out. To avoid a regulatory patchwork, Congress intervened in the 11th hour to create a uniform national standard, and attention has since waned considerably. Now, the disclosure rule takes effect with barely a whimper of notice.

A refresher: Food makers covered by USDA’s rule have several disclosure options, including text, a symbol, electronic (like a QR code), and/or a note to receive a text message. Small food companies have the option of instead including a phone number or a website to make it easier to comply.

There’s also an ongoing legal challenge: A few months into the pandemic, the Center for Food Safety and a handful of co-plaintiffs, including some niche grocers, filed a lawsuit against USDA over the rule.