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USDA Announces Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard

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Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue says USDA has established the National Bioengineered Food Standard. The standard will require food manufacturers, importers, and certain retailers to make sure bioengineered foods are properly disclosed to consumers. Perdue says the new standard will increase the transparency of our nation’s food system by establishing guidelines on how to disclose bioengineered ingredients. “This ensures clear information and labeling consistency for consumers about the ingredients in their food,” Perdue says. “The standard also avoids a patchwork of state-by-state systems that could be confusing to consumers.”

The Standard will define bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through lab techniques and can’t be created through conventional breeding or found in nature. The implementation date is January first of 2020. Smaller food manufacturers will have an implementation date of January first, 2021. There are several disclosure options, including written text, symbols, electronic or digital link, and/or text message. Options like phone numbers or websites will be available to smaller food manufacturers. A congressional law passed in June of 2016 required USDA to come up with a standard to disclose which foods that are or may be bioengineered.

Most key agricultural groups seem to support the USDA’s final rule implementing the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. The National Corn Growers Association says the standard is designed to inform consumers about the presence of bioengineered genetic material in their food. USDA’s disclosure standard stands firmly with science is stating there is no risk to eating bioengineered crops. NCGA President Lynn Chrisp says, “American’s corn farmers need a consistent, transparent system to provide consumers with information without stigmatizing this technology.”

Dave Stephens, American Soybean Association President, says soybean farmers are pleased that USDA took its time to do the rule in the right way. “We believe it allows transparency for consumers while following the intent of Congress that only food containing modified genetic material be required to be labeled,” Stephens says. The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives also applauded the USDA’s standard. “This rule gives the public more information than ever before on how their food was produced,” says Chuck Conner, NCFC President. “At the same time, farmers and food producers still have access to the technology needed to provide safe and affordable food to a growing world population.”