USDA introduces new labeling for genetically modified foods


usdaConsumers will soon see new symbols and QR codes identifying genetically modified and bioengineered foods as the US Department of Agriculture implements new labeling rules.

Food manufacturers, importers and some retailers must now comply with the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which requires the labeling of genetically modified foods. It also replaces the term genetically modified organism, or GMO, with bioengineered foods. These are defined as foods containing detectable genetic material that has been modified in the laboratory and cannot be found in nature or created by conventional breeding.

“The rule is a win for farmers and consumers who want transparency in food marketing,” said Ben Rowe, national affairs coordinator for the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation. “It clarifies the marketplace so consumers can make informed decisions about the issues that matter to them and protects the innovation that is essential to sustainability and the future of agriculture.

Consumers will see text, symbols, QR codes, phone numbers and website addresses about foods that are bioengineered or contain bioengineered ingredients. They can visit the website, scan the QR code or make a phone call to learn more about the food and its ingredients.

Additionally, the standard establishes a national disclosure model that avoids a convoluted assortment of state laws for bioengineered foods that impede the flow of products, confuse consumers and increase production costs, Rowe explained.

Bio-modified crops and foods are a vital part of today’s food system.

“Due to population growth, we need to use every tool in the toolbox to achieve higher yields,” said Lynwood Broaddus, chairman of the Caroline County Farm Bureau and member of the VFBF Soybean & Feed Grains Advisory Committee. “Genetically modified crops are very important in this regard.”

Broaddus explained that producers and consumers benefit significantly from bioengineered foods, as they allow farmers to grow more efficiently and reduce the amount of inputs such as insecticides and herbicides.

Additionally, “in terms of nutrition, there is no difference” between bioengineered and non-bioengineered foods, Broaddus explained.

Only 13 crops and feeds are available in bio-modified form, and more than 70% of the bio-modified crops harvested are used as feed for food-producing animals.

“Billions of animals and millions of people have consumed genetically modified foods without a single recorded food safety incident,” Rowe added. “These crops are repeatedly and thoroughly tested for consumer and environmental safety by industry experts and independent organizations. These tests are reviewed by the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and similar organizations internationally.

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