The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) announced the final rule implementing its National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard on Dec. 20.
The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law, passed by Congress in July of 2016, directed USDA to establish this national mandatory standard for disclosing foods that are or may be bioengineered. The Standard requires food manufacturers, importers and certain retailers to ensure bioengineered foods are appropriately disclosed.
“The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard increases the transparency of our nation’s food system, establishing guidelines for regulated entities on when and how to disclose bioengineered ingredients. This ensures clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food,” said Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture. “The Standard also avoids a patchwork state-by-state system that could be confusing to consumers.”
The Standard defines bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature. The implementation date of the Standard is Jan. 1, 2020, except for small food manufacturers, whose implementation date is Jan. 1, 2021. The mandatory compliance date is Jan. 1, 2022. Regulated entities may voluntarily comply with the Standard until Dec. 31, 2021.
Agricultural groups, including the National Milk Producers Federation, were pleased with the standard.
“NMPF is pleased with the bioengineered food disclosure rule’s re-assertion that milk from animals that consume bioengineered feed shouldn’t be subject to mandatory GMO labeling. NMPF told Congress that any regulation requiring the labeling of bioengineered products must be science-based and acknowledge that feeding farm animals grains developed through biotechnology has no effect on the animals or products derived from them. This rule codifies our position,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of National Milk Producers Federation. “It’s important to remember that bioengineered food disclosure rules should be founded in science, and are a measure to regulate food marketing, not food safety. Also, the rule doesn’t fix every problem regarding the labeling of bioengineered products in the marketplace. Misleading absence claims may persist even under this rule, and we urge USDA and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to focus their energy on examining voluntary disclosures and their potential to be false and misleading.”
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) developed the List of Bioengineered Foods to identify the crops or foods that are available in a bioengineered form throughout the world and for which regulated entities must maintain records. The records will inform regulated entities on whether the food must have a bioengineered disclosure to be communicated to consumers. Regulated entities have several disclosure options: text, symbol, electronic or digital link, and/or text message. Additional options such as a phone number or web address are available to small food manufacturers or for small and very small packages.
The implementation of the Standard concludes a rulemaking process begun in July 2016. AMS gathered information needed to develop the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and program, in part, through a public comment period. More than 14,000 comments were received and taken into consideration during the rulemaking process. Prior to this, AMS received over 112,000 comments in response to 30 questions provided on the AMS website regarding establishment of the Standard.
The final rule is in the Federal Register on Dec. 21, 2018. USDA will provide outreach and education to inform regulated entities and the public about the new disclosure terms. The entire record of the rulemaking is available at www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/12/21/2018-27283/national-bioengineered-food-disclosure-standard.