Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center
By Erin Johnson
Until recently, the United States did not have legislation specific to genetically modified organisms. On July 29, 2016, President Barack Obama signed a GMO labeling bill, which amended the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946.
What does this law do?
The law requires most food manufacturers to put a text label, symbol or quick response code on food packaging indicating whether it contains genetically modified ingredients.
When will more details be available?
The new addition to the law mandates the U.S. Department of Agriculture has two years to define what constitutes a genetically modified food ingredient. Then, food manufacturers will be required to label products containing genetically modified food ingredients.
What does this mean?
The law will ensure GMO-ingredient labeling is standard across the country, other than the alternative of each state having different type of label requirements. Before the bill was signed, there was an emerging effort to label GMOs in at least 24 states with successful bills in Maine and Connecticut. Vermont passed a law that went into effect July 2016, which required all food and beverages in the state that contain GMOs include a label that reads produced with or partially produced with genetic engineering.
How does this translate for companies?
The law will require food manufacturers to obtain validations by way of certificates of analyses from their suppliers as to whether or not the ingredients used are genetically modified. The information from the suppliers will help ensure proper labeling of the product for the consuming population and regulatory requirement.
Why is this important?
Consumers want to know what is in the food they consume. Prior to the passage of the GMO labeling bill, 64 countries around the world required labels for genetically modified foods. Of those 64 countries, 28 are members of the European Union, as well as Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and China. When the finalized definition and the requirements for labeling are published by USDA, the United States will join the other countries with label requirements for GMOs. The full effect of the law for both the consumer and manufacturing companies is yet to be fully understood.