Issue Date: September 4, 2017
Consumer group sues USDA over biotech labeling
Food safety advocates filed a lawsuit on Aug. 25 against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, claiming the government failed to complete a study as required under a food labeling law enacted last year. The law is intended to provide consumers with information about whether foods contain genetically modified ingredients. Lawmakers agreed to allow manufacturers to use codes that can be read by a smartphone, such as QR codes, instead of including text on food labels. Congress required USDA to study consumer behavior related to these “electronic and digital disclosures.” USDA was supposed to complete the study and solicit comments from the public by July, but the agency has yet to do either. The study is considered important because it will determine whether digital disclosures provide accessible information to consumers. Food safety advocates argue that consumers deserve clear, on-package labeling. “Allowing companies to hide genetically engineered ingredients behind a website or QR code is discriminatory and unworkable,” says George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, the plaintiff in the lawsuit.
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