One needn't be a supporter of mandatory GMO labeling to hate the new final rule. Take me, for example. I find the law's chief flaw to be that it requires any GMO labeling at all.

But a deeper look reveals other defects. Earlier this year, I called out two key features of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Act as particularly troubling. The first is the fact the law ponders "other factors and conditions" that could trigger mandatory GMO labeling. The second feature, noted above by others, is that the law allows food marketers to declare GMO content via text message, symbol, or a QR code. I suggested that these two features were "certain to sow confusion and spur litigation" in the future.

Nothing in the final rule alleviates my concerns. That's no surprise. Confusion and litigation are hallmarks of the last decade or so of debate over mandatory GMO labeling.

For example, one of the main practical criticisms of mandatory GMO labeling laws—one I've lobbed many times over the years, including at Vermont's short-lived labeling law—was that labeling schemes proposed by anti-GMO advocates were always intended to scare and confuse consumers about genetically engineered foods, rather than to educate them. But the USDA's final rule simply embraces these shortcomings.

What this means is that what we have now is a mandatory nationwide GMO labeling law for people who hate mandatory GMO labeling laws but love the confusion these laws sow. There's nothing to celebrate in that.