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USDA Releases Proposed Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard

June 13, 2018

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) published its proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NFBDS) on May 4, which aims to provide clarity on when and how to label foods that contain bioengineered ingredients. NMPF was pleased that USDA made clear that meat and milk that are produced by animals fed bioengineered grain are not bioengineered, and therefore not subject to the rule. NMPF fought hard during the legislative process to establish that determination.

However, other provisions of the proposal remain unresolved as the agency seeks additional feedback from the public. Among those are whether to require the disclosure of highly-refined ingredients such as beet sugar, corn syrup and soybean oil that do not contain any bioengineered DNA, even though the definition of a bioengineered food requires that it “contain genetic material.”  Also at issue is the threshold level of bioengineered ingredients that will trigger disclosure.  The alternatives proposed include setting the threshold at either 0.9 percent or 5 percent.

NMPF said the final USDA rule will need to make clear that bioengineered enzymes – typically used in the making of cheese – are exempt from disclosure, especially since every country with a bioengineered food disclosure standard already provides such an exemption.

Vitamins added to foods also need to be exempt under USDA’s disclosure proposal, NMPF said. Unless the rule makes this clear, many fluid milk products, which contain Vitamins A and D, could need to be labeled as bioengineered if they use bioengineered vitamins. NMPF is working with the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food and will file comments identifying this issue as a huge oversight that must be remedied.

NMPF was pleased that the design of the symbol to be used on bioengineered foods conveys a neutral to positive image, as bioengineering is frequently portrayed in a negative light. NMPF will encourage USDA to send a clear message that bioengineered disclosures – present or not – must not be false and misleading.

NMPF will work through these and other issues as it prepares to submit comments by to the July 3 deadline.