Excluding refined ingredients from GMO labeling rule would confuse consumers and erode trust in brands, warns the GMA

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

GMA: Overly narrow definition of 'bioengineered' will "encourage further polarizing activism about what is perceived to be information ‘hidden’ by brands'
GMA: Overly narrow definition of 'bioengineered' will "encourage further polarizing activism about what is perceived to be information ‘hidden’ by brands'

Related tags Gmo labeling Gma

Consumers will lose trust in the food industry if USDA does not mandate that refined ingredients such as oils and sugars derived from bioengineered crops are subject to GMO labeling, says the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

In comments​​​​ filed with the USDA on its proposed rule​​​ laying out a national bioengineered food standard, the GMA urged the agency to include refined ingredients in its 'bioengineered' definition, even if they contain no detectable modified DNA, or face charges of ‘hiding’ information from shoppers.

Echoing comments​ made by two of its departing members (Hershey and Unilever), the GMA said excluding refined ingredients from the scope of the mandatory disclosure standard would result in around 78% fewer products being disclosed under the federal law, making something of a mockery of the exercise.

GMA does not expect that consumers will understand or believe the concept that an ingredient starting from a bioengineered ear of corn is not bioengineered after it has been refined… Not including refined ingredients in the definition of bioengineered food will undermine the intent of the Act.

“It will confuse consumers, erode trust in brands and the technology and encourage further polarizing activism about what is perceived to be information ‘hidden’ by brands, the food industry, institutions and policy makers.”

It added: “Consumer interest in bioengineered food is based on the desire to understand how a crop or ingredient was grown.”


"The national bioengineered food disclosure standard is a marketing standard and not a safety standard. As such, our support for mandatory disclosure of refined ingredients is grounded in our industry’s commitment to transparency and to building consumer trust in the use of bioengineered ingredients and foods.

"It would also be more practical for manufacturers to comply with a standard based on the realities of the current U.S. agricultural supply chain rather than one based on testing."


The final rule should also establish a threshold of 0.9% by weight of bioengineered ingredients intentionally added in a finished food product, which “would be compatible with voluntary certification standards in the US that make similar de minimis allowances for products that are described as non-GMO,”​ added the GMA.

“In addition, the inherent nature of agricultural production and the shared use of storage facilities, transportation and production equipment in the supply chain make it necessary to establish a 5% threshold for the unintentional presence of bioengineered substances in any one product ingredient.”

Wording and logos

While ex-GMA members Unilever and Hershey expressed strong reservations about the word ‘bioengineered,' with which most consumers are not familiar, the GMA does not object to the term.

The timetable for federal GMO labeling​

On the issue of compliance dates, the GMA urged USDA to establish a compliance date of two years after the effective date of the final rule, but also argued that companies should be allowed to exhaust existing label inventory until two years after the compliance date – ie. four years after the rule is finalized.

USDA was originally charged with publishing its final rule on GMO labeling by July 29, 2018, a deadline it will be unable to meet. It has not given a specific date for publication, but agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue recently said he hoped a final rule would be published “later this year.”​​

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Posted by Robert Wager,

Please explain how labeling would work for sugar. Sugar from a GMO sugar beet is identical to sugar from sugar cane. So if the sugar is identical what does a differentiating label do but confuse the issue?

BTW glyphosate resistant sugar canes are taking over that market just like RR sugar beets did.

Oh and please answer the same question for oils.

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What are food labels for, safety or sales?

Posted by Richard E Goodman,

It seems food labels should primarily provide consumers with verifiable information that says what the product is, whether there are risks for specific at-risk consumers (specific allergies, celiac disease, diabeties). and nutritional information.
I am against labeling foods genetically modified (GM), GM organisms (GMO), genetically engineered (GE), biologically engineered (BE) as those describe a process that is a scientific way of modifying crops and organisms to have special traits, resistance to insects, better vitamins, tolerance to herbicides. There are internationally agreed upon guidelines for reviewing food safety of GE (GM) crops. The guideline came from the CODEX Alimentarius guideline in 2003, reviewed and again accepted in 2009. The Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Dept. of Agriculture in the US have been following and demanding the evaluations be performed that go far beyond what is done with standard breeding and testing methods. They protect consumers and farmers. The basic questions are: Did you transfer an allergen from one source to a different food source? Did you transfer a gene for a protein likely to cause cross-reactions" Did you transfer a gluten from a celiac disease eliciting organism (wheat, barley, rye even oats)? Did you transfer a toxin? In addition, are the nutrients similar to other non-GM varieties of the same species? Are there likely environmental risks?

These questions are answered and in many cases (highly refined oils, sugar etc.) there isn't any way to test to see if the source was GM.

Normal foods present risks of allergy and celiac disease and must be labeled appropriately. There are also "standards" for Halal, Kosher, Organic. Organic does not allow GM (silly really some of the GM crops are more organically sound than "organic" crops).

Is labeling, especially of everything creating a new religion?

Why do food companies put "NON-GMO" on the same package, next to "Gluten Free", "Allergen Free"? Is it to scare consumers into believing that GM products are not safe?

If you are diabetic, you may inject insulin that is produced as a GM product, but in a factory. It is safe and has to meet standards. But shouldn't that be called GM?

Would you rather have GM male sterile mosquitoes, or Zika virus? Or should we spray DDT again to reduce mosquito populations as global warming is leading to the spread of the mosquitoes that carry Zika and Dengue.

What are the reasonable answers?
There have not been any cases where an approved GM crop has caused any illness due to the inserted protein. No allergies, not toxicity. So why should we label?

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