GMO Labeling Law May Be Late

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

May 01, 2018

USDA probably will miss its July 29 deadline to create a rule for labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) foods and ingredients, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told the National Association of Farm Broadcasting on April 24.

The "National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard," passed by Congress in 2016, assigned the job of creating a standard for GMO labeling to USDA, not FDA, and established a July 29, 2018, deadline for publishing that rule. But Perdue told the Farm Broadcasting group "we’re not as close as I’d like” to publishing a final rule, according to a recap published by the North American Millers’ Assn. and quoted in Feedstuffs.

“I had insisted last year when I got here that we would meet that deadline,” said Perdue, who also was marking his one-year anniversary as secretary of agriculture. “I’m still hoping for (completion) this summer, but it does not look like we will meet the deadline that we had insisted upon."

The Feedstuffs story said Perdue attributed the delays to reviews by the White House Office of Management & Budget (OMB). “We turned in our papers on time; the teachers didn’t grade them on time,” Perdue said, referring to delays by OMB.

USDA sent a proposed rule to OMB on Dec. 26, 2017, but OMB has yet to complete its review, even though that is supposed to take no more than 90 days, according to a report from United Egg Producers. Even if issued immediately, a proposed rule would likely have a comment period of at least 60 days, and USDA expects to receive thousands of comments, which will make it challenging to review all the comments and complete a final rule by late July.

Under the legislation, food & beverage companies could select from among three options: add "contains genetically modified organisms" to their labels – as many already are doing – add the SmartLabel QR code created by Grocery Manufacturers Assn. or use the GMO label to be created by USDA. In addition to a label, USDA needs to “establish such requirements and procedures as the secretary determines necessary to carry out the standard.”

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