The USDA’s new labeling for genetically modified foods goes into effect Jan. 1. Here’s what you need to know.

Image Credit: (Jim Mone/AP)

Starting January 1st, grocery store labels will be revamped for food that has been genetically modified. 
The goal was to get rid of the mosaic of various food and ingredient labels  that had been scientifically modified, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. 
However, the move also puts a greater burden on consumers to do their homework to understand what the labels mean, food advocates say. 
Modified Organisms (GMOs) are now labeled as bioengineered or given a phone number or QR code to direct consumers to more information online. The changes are part of the  new USDA rules for plants and ingredients. 
Controversial modified Food has been regulated differently By providing a unified national standard for  bioengineered food labels “it bypasses a patchwork of national labeling regulations,” a USDA spokeswoman said in a statement. 
The measure generally confuses food safety stakeholders.Consumption of bio-engineered foods poses no risk to human health, according to the National Academy of Sciences and the Food and Drug Administration; However, watchdog organizations say the new regulations contain too many loopholes for consumers looking to avoid these foods.

“The worst thing about this law is the use of the term ‘bioengineering’ because  most consumers are unfamiliar with the term,” said Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology project leader for the  Center for Science in the United States, a non-profit organization. He said that this choice was mainly due to the perception of “GMOs” as derogatory. 
Other stakeholders like the Center for Food Safety say the rules don’t go far enough and  leave most genetically modified foods unlabelled. 
The new rules discriminate against the more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to smartphones or cellular services, as businesses can rely on  scannable smartphone-based QR codes to share information with consumers. to disclose  whether food is biotechnologically produced or uses biotechnologically produced ingredients, whereby established terms such as “transgenic” and “GMO” are removed from the labels. Other types of official certifications such as USDA Organic and NONGMO Project Verified are allowed.

Manufacturers of dietary supplements  also have to adhere to them, but restaurants and other catering establishments do not have to adhere to the new rules. An industry that is  already shaky, according to corporate and food manufacturers’ trade groups, said Betsy Booren,  senior vice president of the  Consumer Brands Association trade group, that while the organization supports a unified framework for  modified food disclosure, it has urged government officials to  pause the new rules temporarily. 
“We believe the government should take a ‘do no harm’ position at this point, allowing businesses to focus on delivering important products to consumers,” he said. the need to provide information to consumers interested in minimizing costs for businesses, adding that those costs could be paid to consumers, according to a USDA spokesman.

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