Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Breaking Bread: GMO labeling due on packaged foods by summer 2018


Last year, Congress passed a law requiring that foods containing genetically modified ingredients reveal that on their labels.

By the summer of 2018, the marketing division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with defining what that label will say.

Will it actually list the ingredients (as in: "This product contains genetically modified corn and soy"), or will it be a QR code connecting the consumer to the information on a website?

The debate over the label's wording could prove as contentious as the fight over genetically modified organisms themselves.

GMOs are plants whose DNA has been changed. The development is beyond the typical cross-breeding of plants because the changes are made in the laboratory at the cellular level.

Opponents of GMOs fought hard for the labeling. They consider GMOs less safe than non-GMO foods, have ethical concerns about tampering with nature, have issues with the corporations behind GMO seed (namely Monsanto), and fear environmental damage from widespread GMO crops.

GMOs were developed 20 years ago to help farmers by changing the structure of plants to make them more resistant to disease so that farms could produce higher yields while applying fewer pesticides. GMOs are produced mostly for commodity crops: Corn, soy, canola and sugar beet.

Recently, I had the chance to sit in while a group of Ohio food manufacturers learned about the new labeling law from Steve Armstrong of EAS Consulting.

Armstrong is a lawyer who specializes in food labeling and food-regulation compliance; until recently, he served as the chief food-law counsel for Campbell's Soup Co. Armstrong traveled to Columbus to speak at the Ohio Food Industry Summit, sponsored by the Center for Innovative Food Technology in Toledo.


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