September 6, 2016
In late July, President Obama signed into law Congress’ much contested GMO Labeling law, creating a mandatory disclosure requirement for “bioengineered” foods and directing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop regulations and standards to carry out the requirement. Now that the law has been finalized, the long process of rulemaking and implementation begins. In a previous blog we summarized what the new law would mean for consumers and producers, and provided a general outline as to the series of steps that would take place before enforcement could begin.
This week, USDA issued a request for information (RFI), aka an informal request for public comment, which will inform the design of a study to establish a National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. The RFI refers to a USDA Performance-Based Work Statement (PWS), which highlights the steps and processes needed to complete a project (i.e., the scope of the project, applicable documents, summary of requirements, and time frame).
This is the first of several opportunities for public comment USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) will make available over the next two years as they finalize regulations and procedures for the law. While the comment period is open to any and all interested parties, USDA is particularly seeking input from vendors interested in conducting the Food Disclosure Standard study concerning their ability to conduct the studies and the estimated cost.
Input from vendors and stakeholders on the Draft PWS should be submitted to AMS by September 15, 2016 at 5:00 pm EST.
For interested stakeholders looking to provide comment, contact GMOlabeling@ams.usda.gov using the subject line ‘RFI- DRAFT PWS SUGGESTIONS’.
This RFI is being issued in response to a section within the newly passed GMO labeling law that directs USDA to implement two studies as a gauge of the overall effectiveness of electronic or digital labeling disclosures. Specifically, the study will look into what might block consumer access to electronic or digital GMO labels or information. For example, technological barriers to accessing the labels could include availability of wireless Internet or cell phone networks, or convenient access to telephones in stores. This section of the law also requires an accompanying “Consumer Use Study” be undertaken to see if consumers are likely to use the prescribed electronic or digital disclosures when shopping for food. For more details on these studies, refer to the USDA Draft PWS.
This is only the first opportunity that stakeholders will have to weigh in on these studies. AMS’ current schedule for the studies is as follows:
Of course, these timelines are subject to change. Once the study is finalized, USDA will issue the proposed implementing regulations and provide additional opportunities for interested stakeholders to weigh in. Under the law, Congress gave USDA one year to complete these studies, and two years to put out implementing regulations (which will have to go through a public rulemaking process), so it is no surprise to see USDA moving quickly to carry out this first set of directives.
Categories: General Interest