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USDA is close to releasing GMO labeling rules

Expect the debate over GMO labeling—the labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients—to heat up again in the near future.

USDA Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach tells Brownfield the agency is close to releasing a proposed GMO labeling rule for public comment.

“We’re done with our interagency approach to put out a proposed rule for labeling foods that have ingredients derived from genetic engineering,” Ibach says. “Now we’re having some interactions with other agencies in the federal government to make sure that we’re not crossing any lines that have to do with international trade or other regulations that are out there. And then we’ll be releasing those regulations for public comment.”

One of the challenges, Ibach says, has been figuring out the threshold level of GMO ingredients that require labeling.

“Whether more should be labeled or less should be labeled, depending on some processing features,” he says. “That’s all part of the considerations that we’ve looked at as we get ready to put the new rule forward.”

It’s also important the GMO labels do not raise any food safety concerns, Ibach says, and he indicates electronic labeling is part of the plan.

“I think the intent largely was for something on the package that gave an initial indication, and that there would be an openness for consumers to be able to delve deeper if they use the QC code, or different things like that.”

The bill mandating GMO labeling on food and beverage products was signed into law in 2016. Congress charged the USDA with developing the rules.

Ibach spoke with Brownfield at the recent Nebraska Governor’s Ag Conference in Kearney.

AUDIO: Greg Ibach

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