Consumers will begin to see labels for genetically modified foods on store shelves. The law implementing the labeling began Jan. 1 and is fully mandated by Jan. 1, 2022. Any product containing genetically-modified-organism products or byproducts must by that date display a label indicating that fact. Several genetically modified crops are currently approved for commercial production and sale in the United States.
- AquAdvantage salmon
- Arctic apple
- eggplant – BARI Bt Begun varieties
- papaya – ringspot virus-resistant varieties
- pineapple – pink-flesh varieties
- squash – summer
More products are being developed and tested but haven’t yet been approved and released for commercial use. Not all products in a crop category are genetically modified or bioengineered. Most eggplant, potatoes and summer squash aren't bioengineered, but the average consumer doesn’t know that. And bioengineered items can’t be identified based on their appearance.
Consumers may currently see the "Non-GMO Project" label. Companies pay an annual fee to participate in that optional verification program. They also pay an additional fee for each item that will display the label. There are about 3,000 participating brand. The label is featured on more than 50,000 items, according to the Non-GMO Project.
The Non-GMO Project label can be confusing because companies can place the label on whatever they want -- even if the product couldn’t possibly contain genetically modified ingredients, according to Michigan State University. The label can be found on products where there currently are no genetically modified varieties such as orange juice, cranberries, mandarin oranges or vanilla extract. It also may be seen on products – such as salt – that will never contain genetically modified organisms. Salt contains minerals only so there's no deoxyribonucleic acid – DNA – to modify.
Phasing in of the new U.S. Department of Agriculture bioengineered label has the goal of reducing confusion about genetically modified organisms. Visit extension.msu.edu for more information.