Background

President Obama signed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure law on July 26, 2016.  It requires the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to establish a national standard for mandatory disclosure of bioengineered foods. USDA’s new proposed rule provides an opportunity for public comment on the USDA plan to implement the rule.  Comments are due to USDA by July 3, 2018.

 
 
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In the law, “bioengineered food” is defined as the following:

“A 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.”

 

All witnesses who testified before Congress during consideration of the Disclosure law stated that bioengineered foods are safe. While the rule is specifically intended for mandatory disclosure of foods that contain “genetic material modified through recombinant DNA techniques” and “food that is not genetically modified is not intended to be included,” Congress does not intend to limit voluntary disclosure of products which may contain ingredients which are made from bioengineered, or genetically modified, sources, but for which there is no longer genetic material present.

The national rule is important to avoid a patchwork of state laws which would negatively impact the efficient movement of food products between states, significantly increase costs to consumers and potentially introduce consumer confusion around a variety of different labels for the same product. Further, consumers are increasingly seeking transparency in the products they purchase and this rule intends to provide clarity to consumers who are looking out for products which contain bioengineered genetic material.