Quick: What does this label mean on your food package in the grocery store?

This is one of the logos proposed by USDA as it limps slowly toward compliance with a national labeling program for genetically modified foods. 

May 26, 2018 — Advocates for clear-cut labeling of genetically modified food are protesting USDA's proposed smiley-faced emoticon, which consumers are apparently supposed to know means "bioengineered" when it appears on a food package. 

But administrative subterfuge could have been anticipated under the original federal law, which was passed primarily to prohibit meaningful state-level GMO labeling and camouflage GMO content. The original legislation uses the term "bioengineered" rather than the widely understood "GMO" acronym for Genetically Modified Organism.  The 2016 "National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard" also allows an option for food retailers to put a scanner label on food packages which requires the consumer to check a website for further information on the product. The company website would maintain information on what genetically modified content is in foods.

Several advocates of distinctive GMO food labeling are filing strong objections to USDA's logo. 

1. The Cornucopia Institute urges growers to file statements with USDA regarding the proposal; the deadline is July 3. Here's the link to the government website where you can access the ability to file a comment.

2. The GMwatch website posted on May 11 a complaint by Katherine Paul saying the proposed labeling is "a loss for consumer transparency."

European Union
organic food label

3. Moms Across America says USDA's label appears to copy the look of the European Union's round logo which stands for organic. "And yet the GMO industry wants to label GMOs with BE that stands for "BIO-Engineered Food." The GMO industry is trying to Co-Opt the organic industry!"

Over the long pull, health-concerned consumers who want non-GMO food will probably look primarily for the "Non-GMO" label, or an organic label. By default, any food product NOT carrying an organic or non-GMO signal may be presumed, in many consumer's eyes, as containing genetically modified content. One of the fastest-growing food labeling additions on American retail food shelves is the "non-GMO" message on packaging.  Here's what the certifying organization says about Non-GMO Project Verified:

"Non-GMO Project Verified is the fastest growing label in the natural products industry, representing $22.3 billion in annual sales and more than 50,000 verified products for over 3,000 brands. Non-GMO products are in demand and the Non-GMO Project Verified seal is the most trusted non-GMO label among consumers."