HomeUncategorizedFinal Comments on USDA’s BE Labeling Rule Debate Disclosure for Highly Refined Foods and Ingredients
Final Comments on USDA’s BE Labeling Rule Debate Disclosure for Highly Refined Foods and Ingredients
The comment period on USDA’s proposed requirements to implement the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS) closed on July 3. As previously reported on this blog, when USDA asked for input prior to drafting the regulation, commenters disagreed on whether highly refined ingredients derived from bioengineered (BE) crops should be disclosed. As a result, in the proposed regulation (see 83 Fed. Reg. 19860-19889), USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) offered two options with respect to labeling highly refined foods and ingredients and requested comments on them.
Option 1: Highly refined products are not within the scope of “bioengineering” because they do not contain genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques and, therefore, do not require disclosure as “bioengineered food.”
Option 2: The definition of “bioengineering” includes all foods produced from bioengineering, including highly refined products, and, therefore, foods containing highly refined ingredients should be labeled as BE foods.
USDA received comments supporting both options. The American Farm Bureau Federation, American Soybean Association, American Sugarbeet Growers Association, National Corn Growers Association, National Cotton Council, US Canola Association, National Fisheries Institute, and the U.S. Beet Sugar Association were among the groups supporting Option 1. In its comments urging AMS to exclude highly refined ingredients, particularly refined sugar, from the scope of the NBFDS, the U.S. Beet Sugar Association stated, “Creating any presumption, even unintentionally, that beet sugar produced from transgenic sugar beets is different and less desirable than its conventional counterparts or cane sugar is not supported by science, is contrary to the intent of the NBFDS, imposes a costly and discriminatory burden on the industry, and has harmful economic impacts throughout the supply chain.”
Groups supporting Option 2 include the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), the American Beverage Association, the American Frozen Foods Institute (AFFI), the American Herbal Products Association, the National Confectioners Association, and SNAC International. In its comments, AFFI reasoned, “Because refined ingredients may contain modified DNA if they are derived from crops on the proposed BE crops list, and because the underlying crop did contain the modified DNA, the resulting foods or ingredients should be subject to disclosure.” AFFI added that “including refined ingredients derived from BE crops would be consistent with consumer expectation.” In a press release about its comments, GMA noted that approximately 90% of U.S. corn, soybean, and beet sugar crops are bioengineered and estimated that excluding refined ingredients from the scope of the mandatory disclosure standard would result in 78% fewer products being disclosed.
We will continue to monitor developments on the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.