Starting Now: No More GMO Foods in the U.S.

USDA Bioengineered LogoGMO foods have been a source of fiery controversy for a decade. Today, the USDA has pulled off a regulatory miracle. Starting now, there will be no more GMO foods in the U.S. None. Instead, we will call them bioengineered. USDA even has a friendly little logo for food companies to slap on their products.

Henceforth, labeling a food product as GMO, genetically modified, or genetically engineered is strictly forbidden. But as a consolation prize, food makers can still label their products as non-GMO or non-GE.

A Six-Year Journey

This amazing regulatory feat comes from a 2016 law – the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. The goal was to create a single national standard for labeling food products that contain genetically modified bioengineered ingredients. Vitriolic arguments about disclosure of GMO food ingredients were burning up an incredible amount of energy. Worse, local governments were enacting a bewildering patchwork of requirements for disclosure, creating problems for food manufacturers.

Add to that a scientific consensus that GMO foods presently available present no substantive safety problems. Thus it seemed that a lot of energy was going into stirring up confusion about food safety. So this national standard made a lot of sense.

Nobody Is Happy with It

But no good regulatory deed goes unpunished. Nobody is really happy with this new standard.

Food manufacturers say that the middle of a supply chain meltdown is a bad time to introduce new regulations that affect literally every packaged food product in the U.S. So they would like to slow it down.

Food policy activists are unhappy on several counts. They say there are too many loopholes in the regulations to meet the needs of people who want to avoid these foods. Also, they complain that bioengineered is a term that most consumers don’t recognize. And finally, they say that the regs discriminate against more than 100 million Americans who don’t have cell phones. That’s because food makers can use a QR code (readable only by a cell phone) to direct people to information about these bioengineered products.

All in all, this seems like a slightly absurd conclusion to a thoroughly absurd controversy about the safety of food products that (almost) everyone agrees are safe. Fitting for the times in which we live.

Click here for more on this turn of events and here for perspective on the start of the GMO wars. For background on myths and facts about bioengineered foods, click here.

Cornfield, painting by Arkhip Kuindzhi / WikiArt

Subscribe by email to follow the accumulating evidence and observations that shape our view of health, obesity, and policy.


January 3, 2022