USDA Allows “Negative Claims” for GMOs in Meat, Poultry and Eggs


Washington, DC—Following the signing of a new GMO labeling bill by President Obama, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has revised its stance on negative claims of GMOs in meat, poultry and eggs. Negative claims are label claims proclaiming the absence of a substance, in this case, livestock or poultry not fed with genetically modified feed. Prior to the signing of this new legislation, FSIS did not allow the terms “genetically modified organism” or “GMO” in negative claims on product labels unless the name of the third party certifying organization contained the terms (ie. Non-GMO Project).

However, given that the Secretary of Agriculture has been tasked to develop and implement a mandatory GMO disclosure standard in two years and the legislation addresses negative claims, FSIS has reconsidered its position. The new law does not subject meat, poultry and eggs to labeling, therefore it states, “a food may not be considered to be ‘not bioengineered’ or ‘non-GMO’, or any other similar claim describing the absence of bioengineering in the food solely because the food is not required to bear a disclosure that the food is bioengineered under this subtitle.” This essentially means that the absence of a GMO disclosure does not make a product eligible for a negative claim.

That is why FSIS is, effective immediately, approving the use of such terms as “genetically modified organism,” “bioengineered” or “GMO” in negative claims. These claims will only be approved if a third-party certifying organization is identified and the label discloses a website where consumers can obtain more information. Examples of appropriate terminology include: “Derived from beef fed no GMO feed,” or “Contains No GMO ingredients.”

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2016