USDA sued over genetically engineered food disclosure

The plaintiffs said the Trump administration missed a July 29, 2018 deadline that was imposed in legislation requiring disclosures for genetically engineered food.

Josh Long, Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider

August 1, 2018

2 Min Read
USDA sued over genetically engineered food disclosure

Two advocacy groups on Wednesday sued USDA for failing to issue final regulations requiring disclosures for genetically engineered (GE) food by the deadline set in a federal statute.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and Center for Environmental Health (CEH) said the Trump administration missed the July 29, 2018 deadline that was imposed in legislation signed in 2016 by former President Barack Obama, requiring a National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS).

USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has received more than 14,000 comments in response to its proposed regulation published in May. The deadline for submitting comments closed July 3.

“The public recognizes that having thousands of processed food products containing unlabeled GE ingredients is deceptive and misleading or, at best, confusing,” the lawsuit asserted. “The American public deserves full disclosure as well as the right to transparency and free choice in the marketplace, and they have waited long enough for these rights.”

The suit added: “This case is about giving Americans these long overdue rights as soon as possible, making the mandated GE labeling as meaningful as possible, and ensuring the public’s right to know what is in their food.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. It seeks an order declaring USDA violated the law by failing to create a GE labeling standard by the July 29, 2018 deadline. The complaint also is seeking an order, requiring “USDA to finalize and issue the regulations implementing the statute as soon as reasonably practicable, according to a court-ordered timeline.”

A spokesperson for USDA said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

Many polls have shown Americans are overwhelmingly in favor of learning whether their food contains GE or genetically modified (GM) material—otherwise commonly known as GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

AMS’ proposed rule for GE foods would apply to manufacturers of conventional foods and dietary supplements, as well as retailers that sell products in bulk.

The proposal features several exemptions, including one for “very small” manufacturers with annual revenues under US$2.5 million. That exemption alone, the federal government said, would relieve from the required disclosures 74 percent of food manufacturers and 45 percent of supplement manufacturers.

Nonetheless, it’s projected the disclosure requirements would cover 96 percent of food products and 98 percent of dietary supplement products, respectively. And companies otherwise exempt from the requirements also would have the option of making voluntary disclosures.




About the Author(s)

Josh Long

Associate editorial director, Natural Products Insider, Informa Markets Health and Nutrition

Josh Long directs the online news, feature and op-ed coverage at Natural Products Insider, which targets the health and wellness industry. He has been reporting on developments in the dietary supplement industry for over a decade, with a focus on regulatory issues, including at the Food and Drug Administration.

He has moderated and/or presented at industry trade shows, including SupplySide East, SupplySide West, Natural Products Expo West, NBJ Summit and the annual Dietary Supplement Regulatory Summit.

Connect with Josh on LinkedIn and ping him with story ideas at [email protected]

Education and previous experience

Josh majored in journalism and graduated from Arizona State University the same year "Jake the Snake" Plummer led the Sun Devils to the Rose Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes. He also holds a J.D. from the University of Wyoming College of Law, was admitted in 2008 to practice law in the state of Colorado and spent a year clerking for a state district court judge.

Over more than a quarter century, he’s written on various topics for newspapers and business-to-business publications – from the Yavapai in Arizona and a controversial plan for a nuclear-waste incinerator in Idaho to nuanced issues, including FDA enforcement of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA).

Since the late 1990s, his articles have been published in a variety of media, including but not limited to, the Cape Cod Times (in Massachusetts), Sedona Red Rock News (in Arizona), Denver Post (in Colorado), Casper Star-Tribune (in Wyoming), now-defunct Jackson Hole Guide (in Wyoming), Colorado Lawyer (published by the Colorado Bar Association) and Nutrition Business Journal.

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