What You Need to Know About The New “Non-GMO” Label

What You Need to Know About The New "Non-GMO" Label

To me, it is incredibly suspicious that after a mere two weeks of the DARK Act passing, a new “negative claim” GMO label was just put forth by the USDA. And who is going to benefit the most from it? Big Food, of course. Before I get into what are the real issues associated with it, […]

Government Organic Regulation Uncategorized USDA
LivingMaxwell.com
usda non-gmo labels fresh young chicken

(All images courtesy of the USDA)

To me, it is incredibly suspicious that after a mere two weeks of the DARK Act passing, a new “negative claim” GMO label was just put forth by the USDA. And who is going to benefit the most from it?

Big Food, of course.

Before I get into what are the real issues associated with it, let’s first discuss what this label is.

SOME BACKGROUND

Prior to the DARK Act passing, the USDA said “As a policy matter, the USDA’s Food and Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) has not allowed the use of the terms “genetically modified organism” or “GMO” in negative claims. FSIS has allowed the use of the terms “genetically modified organism” or “GMO” on product labels or labeling only if the name of the third-party certifying organization contains these terms (e.g. “Non-GMO Project”).”

So, the Non-GMO Project label, which implies that a product is certified as Non-GMO, could be on the front of a package because the name of the organization contained the words “Non-GMO”.

In all other cases, labels such as “Non-GMO” or “Does not contain GMOs” could not be used.

However, I see no shortage of products on the market that do use the words “Non-GMO” on their packaging, with no third-party verification, but apparently FSIS is too pressed for resources to crack down on this. (Whole Foods Market knows this is a real problem and as part of its 2018 GMO-labeling initiative, it will only allow products to use the “Non-GMO” label if they have been independently verified by a third-party.)

With the DARK Act now in effect, FSIS has changed its position and is now allowing “negative claims” in regards to (1) GMOs in meat, poultry and egg products or (2) meat, poultry and egg products derived from livestock that do not consume GMO-feed.

In terms of defining what is GMO-food or what is a GMO-ingredient, FSIS says that it is “food that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.”

For claims of meat or poultry where the animals haven’t been fed GMOs, acceptable labels include the following:

  • “Pasture raised beef fed a vegetarian diet with no bioengineered ingredients”
  • “Chicken raised on a diet containing no genetically engineered ingredients”
  • “Derived from beef fed no GMO feed”

For multi-ingredient products, acceptable labels include the following:

  • “Contains No GMO ingredients”
  • “No genetically modified ingredients”
  • “Ingredients used are not bioengineered”
  • “No genetically engineered ingredients through the use of modern biotechnology”

With these new GMO-free claims, all products must be independently verified by a third-party, such as the Non-GMO Project or a similar organization. This new guidance by FSIS also spells out that USDA certified organic products may automatically use these “negative claims” as well, language that was part of the DARK Act.

SEVERAL CONCERNS AND QUESTIONS

There are many concerns and unanswered questions about this new guidance from the USDA regarding this new “negative claim” GMO label.

1) The timing of this is very suspicious. I spoke to people who used to work in the government, and they believe that this guidance put out by FSIS had been in the works for many months. This is not something put together in a weekend or even a few weeks.

Most likely, Big Food wanted it 100% ready to go once the DARK Act passed and lobbied government officials behind the scenes to make this happen.

2) Why does this rule benefit Big Food?

Think about all of the factory farms that want to get a premium on their products. Hypothetically, they could order one shipment of Non-GMO feed, show their certifier this one invoice, slap on the words “Derived from beef fed no GMO feed” on their products, and charge premium pricing. Some of them could revert back to GMO-feed with near impunity. How?

It all comes back to that third-party verification agency they will use — a new third-party agency that Big Food will be working with and controlling. Don’t think for a second that they’ll be using the Non-GMO Project, which was created by many of the largest players in organic.

And don’t expect strict enforcement or testing, either. It will literally be the fox guarding the hen house.

3) The other big issue is what the threshold for GMO-contamination will be. Right now, the USDA hasn’t determined this. So, until it has, this new third-party verification agency could set whatever threshold it wants.

Currently, the Non-GMO Project allows for a product to receive the Non-GMO Project seal if it has 0.9% or less GMO-contamination, which is the same standard in Europe. Japan allows for 5% or less GMO-contamination to be classified as “Non-GMO”.

Big Food’s new third-party organization could set the standard at 5% or 10%. We really don’t know.

4) As I talked about in my recent analysis of the DARK Act, all USDA certified organic labels can now use these “negative claim” GMO labels as well. This poses MAJOR potential problems down the road. Why?

Because unlike the Non-GMO Project, the USDA’s approved organic certifiers do not do rigorous field testing on high risk crops. As such, certified organic products containing the “Non-GMO” label on them could, in fact, have very high levels of GMO-contamination. This puts the credibility of organic in real jeopardy.

WHY CONSUMERS OUGHT TO BE CAREFUL

With egg, meat and poultry products soon to carry these new Non-GMO labels, many consumers will go into the supermarket and may think that a poultry product that contains the words “chicken raised on a diet containing no genetically engineered ingredients” is better than a USDA certified organic one.

And studies back up this assertion.

A 2014 survey conducted by Market LOHAS Mambo Sprouts Marketing showed that 80% of people seek out Non-GMO products, with 56% saying “Non-GMO” was key to brand buying versus 52% citing Organic. This marks the first time Non-GMO was rated above Organic in purchase intent — a very unsettling reality because Non-GMO is completely inferior to Organic.

Aside from the fact that these Non-GMO claims might have very loose enforcement and high GMO-contamination, the other things that consumers might not realize are the following:

  • The animals might have consumed feed or grazed on grass that had been sprayed with super-toxic chemicals such as glyphosate, a chemical that the World Health Organization said “probably causes cancer”.
  • The animals might have been pumped with synthetic growth hormones and/or antibiotics.
  • The animals might have been raised in factory farm conditions.

More than ever, consumers are going to have to be very educated when they step into the supermarket. They should not be fooled by this new marketing language that will soon hit the masses by storm.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

This new rule that the FSIS just put out is guidance, not law. However, it goes into effect immediately and companies can use this guidance to adopt policies.

FSIS said that it is requesting comments on this guidance until October 19, 2016.

Please contact FSIS (see the bottom of this page) and tell them that:

1) The GMO-contamination threshold should be 0.9%, consistent with what the EU has in place.

2) Third-party agencies should do annual field testing on any high-risk crops (corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, cotton) that are claiming “Non-GMO” status.

This is one issue that I’ll be keeping a close eye on, and I have a feeling that it is going to be a real mess.

If you want to feed your family the healthiest food possible, just remember one thing — always buy USDA certified organic products.

(Below are two other sample labels that contain the “negative claim” GMO labels.)

new non-gmo label from usda

new non-gmo label chicken

Are you interested in staying up-to-date on the most important news in the organic food world?

If so, make sure you Like my Facebook page, follow me on Instagram, and join my email list.

To join my newsletter list, please enter your email below and I’ll send you my Top 5 Inexpensive Ways to Shop Organic.


 


14 Comments

  • Sean says:

    Thanks for sharing the information. I had noticed that some foods at a local Kroger in our area now said “Non-GMO” on them without any other information.

    Ultimately though–the answer is not to try to fix this through the government my friends. We need to vote with our wallets and the free market. We need to become more independent and inter-dependent locally keeping farmers on the smaller scale accountable. If you buy stuff owned by larger companies you may be suspicious of—then ask about their products and usage of GMOs, antibiotics etc… in a clear cut manner to get your answers. If they don’t wish to answer, tell them you will not be buying their products until they do answer. Getting the government to force this issue bring too much chance for corruption(as it already has) with money and power.

    We asked our local farmer’s market farmers to tell us if they used GMOs or pesticides(and what kind if they did). We found out at that local farmer’s market only one family(out of 30+) was using absolutely no GMOs and no pesticides—they’re as fervent as we are about purging the industry. Our money goes to that family every time we go to that market and the others know why we won’t buy from them. This has to start happening individually everywhere. The free market of personal responsibility is the best answer I hope you can see.

  • Leslie Cain says:

    Max, I am curious as to why you continue to support Whole Foods ? I feel they have betrayed their customers and the consumers that support organic. I have boycotted since they helped the DARK act pass. Inconvenient, but worth it.

    • Don Lamber says:

      @Leslie Cain- good for you! Glad to have you among us former customers. FYI Wegman’s and Costco keep expanding their organic product inventories.

  • Tamara Pearson says:

    Unbelievable! Can this government be any more corrupt!?!?

  • Don Lamber says:

    Really good article Max, but don’t give ANY credit to whole foods after walter robb was a HUGE sellout to the DARK Act.

  • l. McCabe says:

    Hi Max, could you please link an actual email that you’d like the public to respond to and send an email with the 2 phrases above in regards to Non Gmo labeling you wrote about?

    I say this because I’ve been all over the FSIS website. There are many emails when you click the “email tab” but only 1 blue link heading once you enter that area, pertaining to “labeling requirements for meat, poultry, and eggs” and this appears to be the only area that “might” accommodate the public emailing concerns. But, conveniently that 1 heading doesn’t have an email attached to it like the other 20 headings that contain emails, but look to be the wrong areas to contact.

    They put a “askFSIS” link in blue on the heading “labeling requirements for meat, poultry and eggs”. No email to do with “labeling”. You click ” askFSIS.” It gives NO email. The link just takes you around in circles to an area with the same “email” and other tabs for contact on the left which you press and come right back to the same list I’ve explained above with 20 headings accompanied with emails that do not pertain to “labeling”; except for the 1 heading that may pertain to non gmo labeling, but won’t provide an email.

    It would be of great help if you can add the correct email for us with your articles should the correct one’s be difficult to find.

    I love your information. Extremely educational. Thankyou.

  • Heather Kovach says:

    1) The GMO-contamination threshold should be 0.9%, consistent with what the EU has in place.

    2) Third-party agencies should do annual field testing on any high-risk crops (corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, cotton) that are claiming “Non-GMO” status

  • ruthy troyer says:

    The GMO-contamination threshold should be 0.9%, consistent with what the EU has in place.

    Third-party agencies should do annual field testing on any high-risk crops (corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, cotton) that are claiming “Non-GMO” status.

  • Gail Cantor says:

    We should be able to eat food without worrying, like people in Europe can do. This new law will be moving backwards instead of forward to healthier food choices.

  • Jim wecht says:

    I thought it was BS before, but now I am totally confused. It is either chemicle free or not. I try to buy from reputable farms, not something that is run by the goverment.

    Bethlehem PA

  • Puk Brandt says:

    – The GMO-contamination threshold should be 0.9%, consistent with what the EU has in place.

    – Third-party agencies should do annual field testing on any high-risk crops (corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, cotton) that are claiming “Non-GMO” status.

  • Elaine Ridderman says:

    1) The GMO-contamination threshold should be 0.9%, consistent with what the EU has in place.

    2) Third-party agencies should do annual field testing on any high-risk crops (corn, soy, canola, sugar beets, cotton) that are claiming “Non-GMO” status.

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *