New labels for food that indicate whether or not they have genetically modified organism will now be labeled ‘bioengineered,’according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, so don’t be fooled by the new wording and labels.
Be on the lookout for the word ‘bioengineered.’ That’s what you’ll see on foods that have genetically modified organisms (GMOs) by January 21, 2022. The USDA has published the final ruling through the Agricultural Marketing Service arm and mandates food disclosure standards for foods with genetically modified organisms.
Food manufacturers, importers and others that label foods will be required to disclose information about Bioengineered (BE) foods and BE ingredients. The requirement comes as a change to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946.
Earlier this year, the USDA decided the term ‘bioengineered’ would be used in place of terms consumers are already more and more aware of like genetically modified or genetically engineered. So, make no mistake. When you see bioengineered food or ingredients, you’ll know that there is the presence of GMOs.
The marketing service said that using terms like genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms may muddy disclosure because of inconsistencies with preemption provisions.
Additionally, consumers will see new symbols to signify the presence of bioengineered foods. Any foods meant for human consumption have to have the disclosure on the label either with text, the symbol, an electronic or digital link and/or text message with more options for information. Some methods may be more obvious than others, so consumers will want to know what to look for.
The text used will either say it’s a ‘bioengineered food’ or that it ‘contains a bioengineered food ingredient.’ The electronic or digital link has to have words telling the consumer to scan for more food information, so if you want to find out if it’s bioengineered or not, we suggest always scanning. Food disclosure advocates believe this is not a fair way to alert consumers about bioengineered products as not everyone has access to a smartphone or mobile device that would allow them to scan, or even if they do, they may not be able to do so because of data plans.
Text messages will also be available to consumers, and small food manufacturers may give phone numbers that tell consumers how to get more information. As well, the USDA has authorized two symbols.
The tricky part is that three of the options that manufacturers have for indicating what’s in their product don’t tell a consumer directly that the food is bioengineered or has any GMO ingredients and the fear is that many consumers will not know they have to look deeper when finding out what’s in their food.
Food that comes from animals that eat GMO feed is exempt from labeling, so if you want to know whether or not your eggs came from a chicken that ate GMO feed, you’ll have to dig more to find out. Since pet food is not meant for human consumption, it does not have to be labeled.
And, food that’s served in cafeterias, restaurants, lunchrooms, food carts or salad bars or other prepared food places is also exempt, as are small food manufacturers (who have annual receipts under $2.5 million).
So, continue to read labels. Investigate ingredients. Know your sources and your sources’ sources and what’s to come by January 2022. It’ll be here before we know it.
Photo: Carlos Amarillo/Shutterstock