Under a Final Rule issued Dec. 19, 2018 by USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), food manufacturers, importers, and certain retailers must disclose the presence of foods or ingredients made from genetic engineering when the bioengineered portion exceeds 5 percent by weight of each ingredient. Companies may voluntarily disclose smaller amounts of bioengineered foods or ingredients by using a USDA-approved “Derived from Bioengineering” symbol.
Mandatory disclosure for food manufacturers starts Jan. 1, 2022. Very small manufacturers (having less than $2.5 million in annual sales) and restaurants are exempt. Companies can voluntarily begin disclosure starting Feb. 19, 2019, when the Final Rule takes effect.
The Final Rule implements the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law (PL 114-216), which was signed into law in July 2016. It requires food manufacturers to prominently disclose on the label the presence of bioengineered ingredients.
The new standard “ensures clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food,” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement. “The standard also avoids a patchwork state-by-state system that could be confusing to consumers.”
Under the Final Rule, which went through a lengthy proposal and revision process, highly refined foods or ingredients, such as oils or sugars that were derived from bioengineered crops but which do not contain detectable levels of modified genetic material are not considered bioengineered. Meat and milk from animals that consumed bioengineered feed are also exempt from disclosure. Products certified under USDA’s National Organic Program are exempt because they already must not contain any bioengineered ingredients.
About Ted Agres
Ted Agres is an award-winning writer who covers food safety regulatory and legislative issues from the nation’s capital in the Washington Report column. He has 40 years of experience in reporting on issues such as health policy, medical technology, and pharmaceutical development. He holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago. He enjoys playing the piano, amateur radio, and paintball. He lives in Laurel, MD. Reach him at email@example.com.