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Natural Awakenings Fairfield & Southern Litchfield Counties

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) Now Labeled as Bioengineered (BE)

Bioengineered label logo for genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

photo courtesy of USDA

As part of a process begun in 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture labeling rule for food products altered at the genetic level was finalized and implemented on January 1 to uphold the integrity of labeling claims and increase marketplace transparency. Bioengineered food is defined as containing detectable genetic material modified by in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid techniques that could not have been modified through conventional breeding or found in nature. Crops include alfalfa, apples, canola, corn, cotton, eggplant, papaya, pineapple, potato, salmon, soybean, squash and sugar beets, and will be updated annually. The rule also applies to food products regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Food labels must disclose that the food is bioengineered or contains a bioengineered food ingredient. Exemptions include small food manufacturers with annual sales of less than $2.5 million; food served in restaurants, delicatessens, food trucks, trains and airplanes; and products that contain an unavoidable or accidental presence of a bioengineered substance of up to 5 percent per each ingredient in the final product. Activist groups agree that extensive consumer education is required to avoid confusion.