The Final Rule on Bioengineered Food Labeling
The USDA announced the final National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (GMO labeling) on Dec. 20, 2018. This final version only slightly differs from its draft versions. The implementation date is Jan. 1, 2020, except for small food manufacturers. Small food manufacturers have an implementation date of Jan. 1, 2021. The mandatory compliance date is Jan. 1, 2022.
This regulation requires food manufacturers, importers, and certain retailers to ensure bioengineered foods are appropriately disclosed. Regulated entities have several disclosure options including text, symbol, electronic or digital ink, and/or text message. Additional options, such as a phone number and web address, are available to small food manufacturers or for very small and small packages.
It also specifies that the symbol used be either of two:
According to Rachel Lowe, counsel in Alston & Bird’s Litigation & Trial Practice Group, the key changes are:
- Highly refined foods with no detectable modified genetic material do not need to be disclosed. There is a little more detail on validated process and testing.
- The list of bioengineered (BE) foods does not distinguish between high and low adoption BE foods. The “may be bioengineered” disclosure is not permitted, but it was proposed.
- The threshold for disclosure was set at 5%.
- Companies may voluntarily comply by making a “derived from a bioengineered food” disclosure even if the product contains no detectable modified genetic material.
The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law was passed by Congress in July 2016. It directed USDA, not FDA, to establish this national mandatory standard for disclosing foods that are or may be bioengineered.
The standard defines bioengineered foods as those containing detectable generic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.