Though anti-GMO activists have long pushed labeling as a way to stigmatize genetically modified foods, America’s draft proposal for labeling such products deftly diffuses that effort with new language and friendly-looking symbols.
Two commonly used terms — genetically engineered and genetically modified — would be abandoned in favor of the new phrase “bioengineered” (BE), according to the US Department of Agriculture’s proposed rule for implementing a mandatory food labeling law that was adopted two years ago.
The proposal, which is open for public comment through July 3, is likely to draw the ire of activist groups that have invested years of campaigning effort in demonizing the term “GMO.” Companies like the Non-GMO Project, meanwhile, have built a brisk business by certifying that foods do not contain transgenic material using a standard much narrower than the proposed labeling rules. They may stand to lose business if “GMO” ceases to be a relevant consumer term.
In keeping with the USDA’s desire to avoid turning the labeling requirement into a warning, the proposed “BE” symbols range from smiley faces to a bucolic representation of blue skies, bright sun and green land.
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