The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently unveiled label prototypes for food with genetically modified ingredients. The fight for labels was controversial, but in 2016, Congress passed a bill in favor of required labeling. Now, the proposed label designs are also facing controversy. “I mean, they look like a little smiley face,” said George Kimbrell, legal director of the Center for Food Safety. “They’re very pro-biotech, cartoonishly so, and to that extent are, you know, not just imparting information but instead are essentially propaganda for the industry.”

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The USDA has been working for a while to develop a mandatory national system for cluing consumers in to the presence of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food — and a request for feedback garnered 112,000 responses from farmers, manufacturers and consumers. Now, the department is asking for comments on its proposed rule for the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.

Related: Genetically engineered apples that never brown are hitting store shelves next year

Many of the proposed labels feature bright colors like yellow or green and include images like suns or plants. They all have the letters BE, which stands for bioengineered. Critics complain that term is unfamiliar to American shoppers, who tend to be more familiar with terms like GMO or genetically engineered. NPR pointed out that some products in supermarkets already have a non-GMO label; Kimbrell said it’s “misleading and confusing” to “now switch that up and use a totally different term, bioengineered, that has not been the standard commonplace nomenclature for all of this time.”

In 2016, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine analyzed more than 900 research papers and found that scientists have not uncovered hard evidence that genetically engineered crops are worse for people to eat than other crops. Still, many consumers want labels.

People have until July 3, 2018 to provide comments on the proposed labels. To submit a comment, visit the website.


+ BE Disclosure and Labeling


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