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By Casey Wooten
Aug. 23 — The Agriculture Department's efforts to craft rules for implementing a nationwide, mandatory system for labeling genetically modified ingredients is making progress, but USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said it's too soon to know how much can be accomplished before the next administration takes office.
“It’s a little early to say how much we’ll get done,” Vilsack told reporters Aug. 23 following a speech at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Vilsack said he hopes to “establish a very strong foundation and framework” in the rulemaking process so that the next administration won’t have to deal with the more intricate and difficult decisions in implementing the law (Pub. L. No. 114–216), signed by President Barack Obama on July 29.
The USDA has two years to finalize rules implementing the labeling system under that law. During that time, it will have to navigate a myriad of challenges, such as avoiding conflicting label regulations by coordinating with the Food and Drug Administration, defining which kinds of food fall under the scope of the law and allocating limited department resources, analysts say (See previous story, 07/15/16).
The law will require food makers to disclose GMO information using on-package text, a USDA-created symbol or a QR code scanned by a consumer's smartphone.
Vilsack said the working group tasked with creating GMO labeling rules is meeting regularly to plan out the regulatory process.
The USDA issued guidance related to the GMO law Aug. 19, which eased rules on labeling meat and eggs that were made using animal feed and ingredients that haven’t been genetically modified (See previous story, 08/22/16).
Vilsack said the USDA is also examining how to conduct a study—mandated by the labeling law—on the effectiveness of using internet links and QR codes to convey GMO information.
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