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(Article Summarized by Meridian Institute) U.S. Department of Agriculture officials met with more than 150 companies and industry groups between August 9, 2016 and June 13 of this year to discuss the GMO-disclosure rulemaking. The Obama administration conducted 35 of those meetings and presentations prior to leaving office, while the Trump administration - which is responsible for meeting a deadline on the rulemaking imposed by Congress next year - has held 13. None of the meetings hosted by USDA during the Trump administration occurred under Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s tenure. The USDA meeting records, which were obtained by POLITICO under a Freedom of Information Act request, “reveal the Trump administration fell well behind the pace set by the departing Obama administration in its attempt to meet an extremely tight regulatory timeline set by Congress. The rulemaking must be wrapped up by July 2018.” President Trump’s directive to review all pending Obama-era regulatory measures slowed down the effort, as did the long process of confirming Perdue as Secretary. The USDA, by the end of July 2018, writes Jenny Hopkinson in this POLITICO article, must “determine for the purposes of the rulemaking what constitutes a GMO, to establish a threshold for how much of a GMO ingredient must be present in a product to warrant disclosure, and what the labeling options should look like.” In effect, writes Hopkinson, “Congress tossed the hot potatoes to USDA to mash.” Andrea Huberty, a senior analyst at the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service's Livestock, Poultry and Seed program, said at a recent conference that the agency is working to complete the regulations by the deadline. Still, she says there are many questions to answer before the rule is final. "Having two years to do this rulemaking is lightning speed,” she said. In June, USDA released a set of 30 questions the department said it needed help answering as it develops the rule. Comments are due by August 25; those made public or provided to POLITICO show there are many more controversial issues at play beyond those Congress gave the agency to settle. Brad Figel, the vice president of public affairs for North America for Mars, which wants existing GMO disclosure language to be compliant with the new rules, told POLITICO that agency officials are “sort of in the listening mode, but they clearly understood our position on this. But they made no position about what they would do. They are trying very hard to get this done, but there are a lot of complexities that are surfacing."

Posted August 11th, 2017
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