Woman buying milk.
July 27, 2016

President Likely to Sign GMO-labeling Law Friday

 |  By: Jim Dickrell

President Barack Obama is likely to sign the biotech/genetically-modified organism (GMO) labeling law this Friday, says Jim Mulhern, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF). Then, USDA will get to work writing the regulations on how the law will actually work.

USDA’s task will be two fold. First, it must undertake a study to determine the feasibility of using electronic Quick Read (QR) codes and digital links to disclaimers as alternatives to printed text on labels.  The study must be completed within a year.  The second task is to write the actual regulations governing labels. The law requires that the regulations be completed within two years.

“We’ll probably see a proposed regulation within a year,” says Clay Detlefsen, NMPF’s senior vice president of regulatory and environmental affairs. But he says the process and the journey to a final rule won’t happen until 2018, at the earliest. And because the regulation is so controversial, it likely will attract litigation even before the final rule is published.

Already, NMPF and a number of leading dairy companies have formed a task force to gauge consumer sentiment and test consumer messaging on biotechnology and milk. The quantitative message tests will gauge consumer awareness and perceptions and test effective messaging to build consumer trust, says Mulhern. That testing, to be done by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, will begin in August.

Aside from seeking national legislation that would pre-empt state and local GMO-labeling laws, NMPF had three goals when it was trying to shape the biotech/GMO labeling law as it wound through Congress:

           • Establish that the consumption of biotech animal feed does not make the milk or meat a biotech food.

            • Establish that the definition of a bio-engineered food focus on foods that actually contain genetic material that has been modified using recombinant DNA technology.

            • Prevent requiring words on labels, specifically the use of the term "GMO" because of the stigma of fear anti-biotech activists have attached to the term.

Mulhern says NMPF has the same goals for the actual regulations that USDA must now write.