USDA establishes bioengineered food disclosure standard

By Justin Walker

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) established the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard on Thursday, setting a standard for disclosing foods that are or may be bioengineered.

The announcement came from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue under the direction of a July 2016 law passed by Congress to develop the mandate.

“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,” Perdue said. “This ensures clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food. The standard also avoids a patchwork state-by-state system that could be confusing to consumers.”

Under the standard, bioengineered foods are defined as containing detectable genetic material that has been modified through lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.

The standard will be implemented on Jan. 1, 2020, with an extension for small food manufacturers until Jan. 1, 2021. Mandatory compliance of the rule is set for 2022.

“The rule is a victory not only for consumers who want transparency but for the entire food value chain, from the farmer to food manufacturers,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said. “It provides clarity to the marketplace, so that consumers can make informed decisions on the issues that matter to them and protects the innovation that is critical to the sustainability of agriculture. Secretary Perdue and Undersecretary Ibach should be commended for this rule, which follows the intent of Congress while protecting future agricultural innovation.”

A list of bioengineered foods was created by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to recognize bioengineered crops or foods available throughout the world. Regulated entities must keep records of all items that fall into this category and are required to inform consumers of such items through text, symbol, electronic or digital link or text message.

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