May 8, 2018
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has published a proposed rule to implement the bioengineered foods disclosure standard. This 2016 law requires food manufacturers to disclose ingredients that are bioengineered – which AMS abbreviates “BE” but means the same thing as the more common term “genetically engineered” or “GMO.”
The proposed regulation, open for comment for 60 days, provides multiple options for comment on some of the most controversial aspects of disclosure. For example, AMS asks for comment on whether bioengineered content disclosure should be required for highly-refined ingredients like beet sugar, high-fructose corn syrup or soybean oil. Manufacturers of these products state disclosure should not be required because genetic material does not survive the refining process.
On the issue of greatest concern to egg producers, the proposed rule is consistent with the law. UEP and other animal agriculture groups lobbied successfully for a provision that states animal products do not have to disclose BE content solely because of the feed the animals consumed. This means that eggs do not have to disclose BE content regardless of whether hens ate feed from bioengineered corn and soybeans.
AMS did not provide any guidance on “absence claims” like “GMO-free” or “non-GMO,” except that organic products are automatically entitled to make these claims. For non-organic products, the regulation is silent and commercial practice in the marketplace varies substantially. Some, but not all, certifying agents for absence claims require the use of non-BE feed.
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