The USDA labeling regulation changes for genetically modified foods began January 1. Here are some bullet points highlighting the changes:
- Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are now labeled “bioengineered.”
- Some foods will only have a QR code that will need to be scanned in order to read how to learn more online.
- Some foods will have the logo above.
- Small companies whose annual sales are less than $2.5 million are exempt from labeling
- GMOs must be detectable in the end product, so many highly processed foods like sugars and oils are exempt from labeling
- Products bioengineered from new techniques like gene editing, synthetic biology, and CRISPR are exempt from labeling.
- Products (like dairy and eggs) from cows and chickens fed GMO corn and soybeans are exempt from labeling.
So, where does this leave us? In my opinion, not too much different than before. Here are some rules that I live by when shopping for food:
- If it’s in a grocery store and not labeled as Certified Organic or Certified GMO Free, then assume that it’s GMO. The exception here is locally sourced foods where you know how they grow/raise the food.
- If it has high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup, it’s GMO.
- If it has vegetable oil, soybean oil, canola oil, corn oil or cottonseed oil and it’s not organic, it’s GMO.
- Assume all meats have been fed or finished with GMO corn unless otherwise indicated. There are plenty of cows that are grass fed, but finished with corn to create the fat marbling of the meat.. So make sure it says “Grass Fed, Grass Finished” or “Only Fed Grass”.
- Memorize which foods are GMO. The list isn’t static; it’s continually updating. Here is a list.
Lastly, I’ll close by encouraging you to ask questions. Don’t make assumptions. Research the answers online. If I find six or more trustworthy sources saying similar things, then, often (not always) I’m reasonably confident that I have an answer.