In 2016, President Obama signed a GMO labeling bill into law, ending the long-standing fight between the pro-labeling groups and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
The hope, and the fear, according to a column in Vitals, was that a GMO warning label would drive customers away from foods with that label. Well, here’s the USDA’s twist: The label will not say GMO. Instead it will show the letters BE.
“BE” stands for bioengineered, a term that has been occasionally applied to genetically engineered foods but was basically unknown to consumers. It’s a term that most people find to be much more pleasant and, frankly, doesn’t have the baggage of GMO.
Then there is the graphic itself; one of the proposed logos is green and leafy, the universal symbol for eco-friendly. Reminiscent of the logo that was tried, and failed, to label foods that were irradiated. The others hint at smiley faces. Seriously?
No, I am not suggesting we put a skull and cross bones on labels—in fact science has not proven that GMOs are any more harmful than conventionally grown crops. The issue is that some consumers want to avoid GMOs and they should be able to find those foods clearly and without confusion. Products labeled with the USDA Certified Organic label or the Non-GMO Product verification are already known to a majority of consumers who prefer this attribute, but it’s the less food-educated shopper that I am concerned about being mislead and intentionally fooled.
That’s just not fair.