On December 21, 2018, the Agricultural Marketing Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard,” a final rule addressing mandatory labeling of bioengineered foods. This final rule was released after approximately 14,000 public comments were received for the proposed rule of the same name which was published in May 2018 (SciPol Summary).
Due to the magnitude of this rule, the rule will not go into effect until February 19, 2019. The required implementation date is January 1, 2020, and the extended implementation date (for small food manufacturers) is January 1, 2021. The mandatory date of compliance is January 1, 2022.
As specified in the final rule, certain foods (alfalfa, apple, canola, corn, cotton, eggplant, papaya, pineapple, potato, salmon, soybean, squash, and sugarbeet) that have been bioengineered (i.e. “(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 nature”) must be labeled as such. The threshold for labeling is if a food contains an ingredient with more than 5% “bioengineered,” then that ingredient must be explicitly disclosed as a bioengineered food.
Highly refined foods with no detectable modified genetic material will not fall under these mandatory labeling guidelines. In addition, food served in a “restaurant or similar retail food establishment” or produced from a “very small food manufacturer” are exempt from these mandatory labeling guidelines. All food that is certified under the national organic program is exempt from labeling.
In general, food manufacturers, importers, and certain retailers are responsible for disclosing the bioengineered status. There are several options for disclosing the bioengineered status, including by text, symbol, electronic or digital link, and/or text message.