The Center for Food Safety and the Center for Environmental Health have filed a lawsuit alleging that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) failed to comply with mandatory deadlines established by the 2016 Federal Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standards Act, which would require labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Ctr. for Food Safety v. Perdue, No. 18-4633 (N.D. Cal., filed August 1, 2018).

The act’s statutory deadline for the completion of final regulations implementing the statute and establishing the national disclosure standard was July 29, 2018. The complaint alleges that “[t]he statute preempted state laws requiring [genetic engineering (GE)] labeling, but until USDA issues the regulations, the statute is an empty vessel: there can be no federally required disclosures.”

“Due to the lack of mandatory labeling, many American consumers are under an incorrect assumption as to whether the food they purchase is produced with GE,” the plaintiffs allege. “Disclosure of whether or not foods are genetically engineered will reduce this consumer confusion and deception.” According to the Center for Food Safety, 64 U.S. trade partners, including the European Union, Japan, China and Australia, require GMO package labeling, and consumers purportedly believe that the sale of food containing unlabeled GMO ingredients is “deceptive and misleading or, at best, confusing.”

Claiming violations of the Administrative Procedure Act and the Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standards Act, the plaintiffs seek an order mandating USDA to finalize and issue the regulations implementing the statute “as soon as reasonably practicable.”

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