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NMPF Tells USDA to Follow Sound Science in Proposed Bioengineered Food Standard

August 7, 2018

NMPF told the U.S. Department of Agriculture last month that the agency’s still-pending regulatory standard for the labeling of bioengineered food ingredients must ensure that consumers receive clear, accurate information about the foods they eat, and not stigmatize bioengineering when scientific evidence demonstrates the safety of the process.

As a member of the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF), NMPF joined comments the coalition submitted in early July providing detailed input on USDA’s proposed rule to implement the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. The coalition comprises a variety of farm and food organizations that worked together to help pass the labeling law.

NMPF said it supports a science-based approach in determining how foods made using bioengineering should be regulated. Bioengineered foods have repeatedly been found to be completely safe by numerous prestigious domestic and international science and research organizations. Because of their clear and unequivocal safety record, NMPF has said that a bioengineered labeling standard should focus on providing consumers accurate information while discouraging misleading marketing tactics or meaningless absence claims.

In addition to supporting the coalition’s comments, NMPF filed its own set of comments on July 3 to highlight several elements of the rule, including how it should address the labeling of milk and meat from animals that consume bioengineered feed. Congress recognized when it passed the underlying biotech food labeling law that feeding grains developed through biotechnology has no effect on the animals or products derived from them and the labeling standard must reflect this.

Also at issue is USDA’s oversight in failing to exempt bioengineered enzymes in the proposed rule, such as those used in cheesemaking, from triggering a disclosure requirement. More than 60 countries with a bioengineered food disclosure requirement exempt such enzymes. NMPF said USDA should ensure the United States is consistent with other countries.

The comments also touched on NMPF’s concerns with voluntary label disclosures and their potential to be false and misleading. A qualifying statement, NMPF said, would properly educate the consumer and thus alleviate this concern. Finally, National Milk stressed that the bioengineered food disclosure standard is really a measure to regulate food marketing, not food safety. Therefore, in determining the level of a bioengineered substance needed for a product to be considered a bioengineered food, NMPF endorsed the coalition’s suggestion that USDA use a 5 percent threshold for inadvertently bioengineered ingredients and 0.9 percent threshold for intentionally bioengineered ingredients.