USDA opens comment period on proposed GMO food labeling rule

soybean helix
Am artistic rendition of a soybean helix — photo courtesy Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has opened a 60-day public comment period on a proposed rule to establish a National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.

The standard, mandated by Congress in 2016, will provide a uniform way to offer meaningful disclosure for consumers who want more information about their food, according to a USDA news release. The rule is designed to  avoid a patchwork system of state or private labels that could cause consumer confusion and would likely drive up food costs.

Two goals within the proposal are to define “bioengineering” and “food” and establish ways to disclose any bioengineered food. One portion of the proposed rule also directs the agriculture secretary to establish requirements and procedures necessary to carry out the new standard. As part of that, the secretary is directed to conduct a study to identify potential technological challenges related to electronic or digital disclosure methods.

“This rulemaking presents several possible ways to determine what foods will be covered by the final rule and what the disclosure will include and look like,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in the release. “We are looking for public input on a number of these key decisions before a final rule is issued later this year.”

Due to the congressionally mandated timeline for this rulemaking, the comment period will not be extended.

Comments may be submitted online through the Federal eRulemaking portal, www.regulations.gov, beginning May 4. Comments may also be filed with the Docket Clerk, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Room 4543-South, Washington, DC 20250; Fax: (202) 690-0338.

The deadline for comments is July 3.

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