It can be hard to keep up with food labeling and what it all means. This can be especially true of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). At the Grain Train, our promise with GMOs has been that we will label all products that we know contain or likely contain GMOs until labeling laws require GMO ingredients to be identified.* We also label all products we know to be free of GMOs so you can easily find those as well. To us, transparency is key. We want you to be able to make the choice that best suits you and your family.
* Update- Though our guidelines promise that we will label all products known to contain GMO ingredients, our purchasing standards are even higher at than that. We do not knowingly purchase GMO products and to our knowledge there are no GMO items at our stores.
There are some changes coming to GMO labeling and not all of them are particularly clear. We have done our best to sum them up below:
In 2016, Congress passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. This is a law that requires food manufacturers, importers, and retailers to disclose information about whether a product is genetically engineered or contains GMO ingredients. The deadline for compliance with this standard is January 1, 2022.
You may already be seeing or will soon start to see the USDA Bioengineered or BE logos on what was previously called genetically engineered or GMO foods. Most foods that contain detectable amounts of genetically modified material must be labeled by the start of 2022. There are exceptions such as highly refined oils and sugars.
One area that is particularly confusing is dairy products, eggs, and meat. Products like milk, cheese and animals fed a diet that includes bioengineered grains are NOT subject to labeling unless there are other bioengineered ingredients in the product. To further confuse the issue, companies are prohibited from disclosing bioengineered foods if a top ingredient is beef, pork, poultry, catfish, or eggs. So if a bioengineered corn is used in a cereal it must be labeled but if it is used in a beef stew it cannot be. Learn more about this here.
You will be able to identify bioengineered foods a number of ways. Companies have the choice of using a written disclosure on the ingredient panel that says bioengineered food or contains a bioengineered food ingredient, using the USDA BIOENGINEERED symbol, or using an electronic or digital disclosure such as a QR code.
You might have the same question as us, what about the Non-GMO project and all the work they have done? Well, foods that do not contain bioengineered material are still able to be labeled as Non-GMO, so the Non-GMO project will still be labeling products and looking for their logo is an option for GMO or bioengineering avoidance.
Another way to confidently avoid bioengineered foods, should you want to, is to buy USDA organic products, which by law cannot contain bioengineered materials. Check out this info on USDA Organic Certification.
We know this is a lot to digest and yet it might still leave you scratching your head. If you have more questions or concerns about GMO or BE labeling, check out the USDA BE Frequently Asked Questions here. As we learn more, we will be sure to share our knowledge with you. As always, enjoy the harvest of the season and we will see you next week!