WASHINGTON — Those supporting and opposing strict labeling of foods that are produced using genetic engineering of bioengineered foods, where quick to react last week when the U.S. Department of Agriculture updated regulations on how and when foods should be labeled as bioengineered, known as genetically engineered or modified.

According to a news release issued by Tamara Hinton, of Story Partners, on behalf of agricultural producers, “The final rule only requires a disclosure when products contain bioengineered genetic material and not when some ingredients, such as oils, starches and sugars are made from crops which may be bioengineered.”

USDA’s disclosure standard adopts the position that “there is no health, safety and nutritional difference between bioengineered crops and comparable or organic crops,” Hinton’s release reads. That position is also held by ausch organizations at the American Medical Association and National Academy of Sciences.

“Several countries, including Australia, Brazil and Japan also do not require mandatory labeling of foods made with products when they do not contain bioengineered substance,” according to the release.

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, was a quoted as saying, “This rule is a victory for consumers who desire transparency and for the entire food value chain, from the farmer to the food manufacturer. It provides clarity to the marketplace and allows consumers to make informed decisions on the issues that are important to them.”

In his contributed statement Richard Gerstenberger, president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association, “America’s sugarbeet farmers commend USDA for thoughtfully crafting a final rule that provides transparency to consumers and clarity to farmers and food manufactures.

“Furthermore, this rule does not impose misleading labeling requirements and recognizes that there are no differences between oils, starches and sugars from bioengineered or conventional crops.”

Arguing the other side, officials of the Center for Food Safety said in a news release, “The final regulations include provisions that will leave the majority of GMO derived foods unlabeled, discriminate against more than 100 million Americans, and prohibit the use of the widely known terms “GMO” and “GE.”

“USDA has betrayed the public trust by denying Americans the right to know how their food is produced,” stated Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at the center.

“The majority of GE foods would not be labeled as a result of provision that exempt highly highly refined products of GMO’s, and set a high 5 percent threshold for unintended presence of GE ingredients,” the release reads.

“The 5 percent threshold for the unintended presence of GE ingredients in processed food is far too high — over five time higher than the European Union’s 0,9 percent standard,” it reads.

Presently the only reliable way to avoid GMO’s is to buy organic or non-GMO certified products, Rebecca Spector, of the Center For Food Safety, noting that Campbells’ Mars and Danone are among the companies doing GMO labeling.

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Larry Meyer is a reporter for the Argus Observer.

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