GROWING YOUR BIZ
2. Bioengineered Foods Must Bear
a BE Disclosure.
“Food” covered by the NBFDS includes
what you typically think of as food for
human consumption, as well as dietary
supplements, processing aids, enzymes
and chewing gum. The NBFDS also
applies to foods regulated by the federal
meat, poultry and egg inspection acts in
certain circumstances, such as canned
stews, depending on which ingredients
predominate. It does not apply to distilled
spirits, wine or malt beverages, which are
covered by a different federal law.
What makes a food BE? The NBFDS
defines bioengineered foods as those foods
with genetic material modified through
rDNA techniques, where the modification
could not be obtained through conventional
breeding or found in nature. CRISPR and
other methods of gene editing are not
included in the NBFDS definition of BE
The USDA will maintain a List of
Bioengineered Foods to be updated
periodically. That list now consists of a
baker’s dozen of foods, including staples
such as corn, potatoes and soybeans.
But even if a food is not on the List
of Bioengineered Foods, companies
subject to the NBFDS will need to make
a bioengineered disclosure if they have
“actual knowledge” that a food they are
selling is bioengineered as defined in the
Manufacturers can perform testing and
maintain records to confirm that—even if a
food is on the list of bioengineered foods—
Highly refined foods, such as vegetable
oils and high fructose corn syrup, are
unlikely to require disclosure. They
are not considered BE foods under the
NBFDS because the processing effectively
eliminates the DNA that was originally
present, and therefore there are no
detectable modified genetic substances.
3. The NBFDS Has Specific Exemptions
for Some Categories of Food.
Food derived from an animal that consumed
feed that has bioengineered ingredients
does not need to bear a BE food disclosure.
Eggs that come from chickens fed from BE
feed, for example, do not need to be labeled
bioengineered because of that feed.
Food certified as organic under the
National Organic Program (NOP) is exempt
from disclosure, because NOP regulations
already prohibit bioengineered ingredients.
There is a threshold amount. Food with
less than 5% detectable bioengineered
substance where no ingredient is
intentionally a BE substance is exempt from
4. How to Disclose BE Foods?
BE foods can bear a text disclosure (such
as “Bioengineered food”), a symbol
disclosure, an electronic or digital link
disclosure or a text message disclosure
(e.g., Text [command word] to [number]
for bioengineered food information.) The
NBFDS disclosure labels and labeling
placement details are available on the
Agricultural Marketing Service website.
There are additional options for small-package foods. This means buyers will need
to read the label, check the “scan here for
more food information” digital link, and
check for a text message instruction if they
want to confirm whether they are buying a
The voluntary disclosure “derived from
bioengineering” or “ingredients derived
from a bioengineered source” may be used
for certain products, such as highly refined
products made by manufacturers that want
to disclose the product derivation but are
not required to bear a BE disclosure.
It is critical that
in the NBSDF for their
private label brands.