Federal lawsuit challenges US rules on ‘misleading’ GM labelling24 Aug 2020
The Center for Food Safety has filed a federal lawsuit challenging USDA rules that mean genetic modification (GM) foods are labelled as ‘bioengineered’ – a move it says reduces transparency and causes consumer confusion.
The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS) entered partially into force on 1 January 2020 and will become mandatory for all food operators in January 2022.
However, a lawsuit filed on 28 July against the Trump Administration's Department of Agriculture (USDA) by non-profit public interest group, the Center for Food Safety, argues that final regulations issued in 2019 include provisions to the NBFDS that reduce labelling transparency.
The plaintiff argues the regulation will leave the majority of foods derived from genetic modification (GM) unlabelled, restrict access to information from tens of millions of individuals, and prohibit the use of the widely known terms GMO and genetically engineered (GE).
For instance, the rules allow manufacturers to opt for ‘electronic’ or ‘digital disclosure’, meaning they can use a QR code to declare the presence of GM ingredients rather than a written declaration on the packaging.
However, a study commissioned by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in 2017 concluded that QR codes fail to convey information to consumers because they are not intuitive, create confusion, and exclude individuals without internet access.
The Center for Food Safety, which represents a coalition of non-profit organisations and retailers, says that requiring a smartphone discriminates against at least 20% of the US adult population who have lower smartphone ownership or live in areas without internet bandwidth, and would primarily impact poor, elderly, rural, and minority populations.
The lawsuit also objects to the USDA’s rules on terminology that allow suppliers and manufacturers to use the term ‘bioengineered’ rather than GE or GMO.
The legal director at the Center For Food Safety, George A. Kimbrell, said: “Basically, [this] is because industry believes that consumers have a negative connotation for the GE and GMO terms, because the GE foods offer consumers no benefit, only risk and adverse agricultural process.”
The plaintiffs also object to the rule which states that if a DNA test cannot detect a GM content in the final product, the product does not have to be labelled as bioengineered.
“The rule does not say a set amount, only if the particular test does not detect it,” Kimbrell told The Ingredients Network. “We believe this decision also violates the law, because consumers care about whether a product is produced through genetic engineering, whether or not it is detectable in the final product.
“The result is that the vast majority of GE products, which are made with GE corn or soy, are so highly processed that the GE content is not detectable, will not be labelled unless the Court reverses that decision. That’s all sodas and cooking oils, etc,” he added.
According to data from the USDA’s Economic Research Service, over 90% of US corn, upland cotton, and soybeans are currently produced using GE varieties.
Kimbrell said there is a growing awareness on the issue among the US public.
“I think people are aware that the [Food and Drug Administration] FDA does no independent testing prior to GE foods coming to the market. That all safety is based on testing by the pesticide companies engineering the crops and any meeting with regulators is voluntary and confidential.
“So, it is an experiment and based on their own self-interested assurances of safety. That rightly gives consumers pause. That’s why people have long demanded labelling. This is the reason non-GMO labelling has been the fastest growing private label in the US in the past decade.”
A 2018 survey conducted by market research company Hartman Group found that nearly half (46%) of respondents said they avoided buying products with GMOs and one quarter said they did not know enough about them.
If the lawsuit is successful, the court will declare the regulations unlawful and nullify them. The issue would then return to the USDA, which would be required to rectify the unlawful portions of the rules.
Brazilian draft law limits food colourings to ‘smallest quantities’ possible
10 Oct 2020
A Brazilian lawmaker is pushing for manufacturers to use the smallest quantities possible of food colourings for health reasons.Read more
Two Mexican states ban junk food sales to children: A taste of things to come?
28 Sep 2020
Two Mexican states have moved to ban the sale of junk food to children and a national ban may be on the cards, according to one expert. Could this be a taste of future food policy around the world?Read more
China’s self-heating trend heats up ready meal category
21 Sep 2020
Self-heating ready meals are experiencing a boom in China, catering to the country’s ‘lazy economy’, and Mintel estimates its market value will double in coming years.Read more
Spike in counterfeit goods could damage ‘Make in India’ initiative, warns report
14 Sep 2020
Counterfeit products are rising in India and fast-moving consumer goods, including food, is in the top three worst-hit sectors. Greater traceability is needed to safeguard the national ‘Make in India’ initiative, says an industry report.Read more
Finding opportunities in Vietnam’s changing retail landscape
7 Sep 2020
Minimarkets, specialist stores and e-commerce platforms are leading retail growth in Vietnam, providing new opportunities for brands to boost sales, according to Kantar Worldpanel.Read more
Beware of ‘woke washing’: Ethical branding must reflect an ethical business
31 Aug 2020
Spanish chocolate manufacturer Lacasa is under pressure to change the name and logo of its Conguitos brand with a consumer-led petition - but experts warn against empty ‘cause marketing’.Read more
Brazil’s food waste law will put consumers at risk, warn experts
17 Aug 2020
Recent Brazilian regulation aims to fight food waste by encouraging food donations – but it puts public health at risk, warn consumer groups and legal experts.Read more
UK pledges to protect food standards during trade talks but public concern remains high
6 Aug 2020
British public concerns over lowering food safety standards continue to court US trade remain steadfast as the UK and US governments gear up for the next round of scheduled negotiations later this month.Read more
Pressure on baby milk manufacturers intensifies over mineral oil traces
3 Aug 2020
Consumer watchdog Foodwatch is calling for EU member states and the European Commission to publish the results of official tests on the presence of potentially harmful aromatic mineral oil in baby milk and infant formula.Read more
Flexitarians in China are revitalising the mock meat tradition
27 Jul 2020
Many Asian countries, China in particular, have traditions of mock meat but the region is developing a new, innovation-fuelled plant-based sector to meet the demands of urban flexitarians, say experts.Read more
Are you a supplier?
Here's what we can do for you
- Generate quality leads for your business
- Stay visible for 365 days of the year
- Receive product inquiries and respond to meeting requests directly
- Improve company online presence through Search Engine Optimisation