NSAC's Blog

First Opportunity for Public Input on GMO Labeling Law Implementation

September 6, 2016

Photo credit: USDA

Photo credit: USDA

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:

  • USDA will issue a Request for Proposals, at which time potential vendors would submit proposals to conduct the studies, and a recipient selected.
  • The draft studies will be published for public input in late March 2017, with a 30-day comment period (estimated March 21 – April 21, 2017).
  • Finalize the studies by May 31, 2017, after considering public input.

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

7 responses to “First Opportunity for Public Input on GMO Labeling Law Implementation”

  1. Bob Hamburg says:

    This is a total bs process. Simply repeal this absurd corporate-serving “law” and get plain language labeling — as under the Vermont law.

  2. Krofter says:

    Read “potential vendors” as… Big Food. Why are they considered stake holders and not those who might be consuming the gmo products?

  3. Reana Kovalcik says:

    Anyone is able to submit comment for this and all other public comment periods on the labeling legislation.

  4. Michael Henning says:

    make sure that ANY Labeling is in simple to read words that DO NOT require any technology to read!!!

  5. Erik Harris says:

    What criteria does the law state for determining accessibility to ingredient information? As I understand, one has to have a smart phone to access this information, which certainly minimizes the population that have access. The food disclosure standards studies should compare accessibility or disclosure between QCR labels to overt GMO labeling and not just ability of the population to read and access QCR codes

  6. Beth Lande says:

    As a consumer I have the right to know what I am eating and make choices. PERIOD. Big industry had their say. Why is there discussion? Put it in plain language and be done with it. It should never have NOT been required. We still don’t even know what “other” ingredients are, so called natural or otherwise. If you don’t label I won’t eat it. That will cost you more.

  7. Cor says:

    This study, will it look at the percentage of consumers that will be able to access the ingredient information if it is printed in plain english versus a QR code?
    And how many QR code readers a store must provide (one every 20 feet or on each end of an aisle or one at a central location in the store…) and how much the store owners are willing to invest to make the manufacturer’s QR codes accessible to their customers without smart phone? And how many people will “BUYCOTT” anything with an unreadable QR code?