As mandated by the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard Law (PL 114-216), which was signed into law on July 29, 2016, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) issued a proposed rule, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS), to create a mandatory, federal standard for labeling bioengineered (BE) foods. AMS, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, released the proposed rule on May 4, 2018 and, after soliciting public comments, is expected to release the final rule by the end of November 2018.
The proposed rule would require all foods under the jurisdiction of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA) to carry a label indicating BE status. Notably, the NBFDS does not cover foods regulated outside of the FDCA such as meat, poultry, and eggs, or foods not intended for human consumption such as animal feed.
PL 114-216 defined BE food as food “(A) that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques; and (B) for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.” This designation is maintained in the current NBFDS, although AMS solicited public opinion regarding the interpretation of “bioengineering” related to food.
To reduce burden on consumers and manufacturers, the proposed rule mandates BE labels would be required only for certain commercially available BE foods, including those that are widely utilized in BE forms (canola, field corn, cotton, soybean, and sugar beet) and not widely utilized in BE forms (apple, sweet corn, papaya, potato, and some squash). However, AMS also welcomed public comment on the content of these lists. Foods served at a retail food establishment, produced by a very small food manufacturer, or with BE substance below an established threshold would be exempt from labeling requirements. Additionally, foods labeled organic are assumed to lack BE substance.
Collectively, the NBFDS outlines guidance for mandatory BE food labeling by addressing what types of foods fall under this standard, what constitutes BE substance, and how BE foods should be labeled. In the proposed rule, AMS repeatedly sought public comment to resolve these issues, among others.