In recent years the public has become increasingly more cognizant of where the food they are consuming is derived from. Many individuals have been taking steps to reduce their meat intake and ensure that they are eating more whole foods. These emerging trends are largely due in part to the widely publicized science that has revealed concerning statistics related to the correlation between a person’s health and the types of food they consume. Companies have responded to this societal shift by including labels on their packaging that communicate if a product is Non-GMO or free of antibiotics. Now, according to NPR, GMO labels are out and new bioengineered food labels are in.
As of the first of January, all companies importing to or distributing food in the United States are required to comply with the United States Department of Agriculture’s new food disclosure standards. According to the new standards, companies must indicate whether or not a food has been developed using bioengineering technologies. There are three different labels that can indicate a bioengineered food item. The labels read “bioengineered,” “contains a bioengineered food ingredient,” or “derived from bioengineering.”
According to the former agriculture secretary Sonny Perdue, these changes were put in place in an effort to force companies to be more transparent with the public. “The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard increases the transparency of our nation’s food system, establishing guidelines for regulated entities on when and how to disclose bioengineered ingredients…” said Perdue. The new standards are meant to serve as a simple and streamlined way to keep people informed.
Additionally, the USDA highlighted that the new labels were developed as a way to further standardize the food-labeling system in the United States and make it less confusing for consumers to discern if they are consuming a bioengineered or partially bioengineered food item. Perdue also went on to highlight the importance of label consistency as a way to help consumers understand how their food was made. As an added resource, the USDA has published a list of commonly bioengineered foods on its website.
Despite the USDA’s assertions that the new bioengineered food labels were put in place to better serve the public, some advocates feel the opposite and have been openly critical of the new labeling standards. The Center for Food Safety argues that the new bioengineered food labels give companies an easier way to hide the true nature behind how their food was made. The executive director at the Center For Food Safety, Andrew Kimbrell expressed in a statement that the term bioengineered is too vague and does not adequately convey the makeup of a certain food item.
The Center for Food Safety pointed specifically to the fact that the new bioengineered food label standards prohibit the use of terms that refer to GMOs or highly refined ingredients, and have opened up a lawsuit against the USDA on the grounds that those phrases should not be excluded from labeling. Still, even though The Center for Food Safety has immense reservations regarding the new standards, there have been many food advocacy groups to praise the USDA’s labeling changes. Both the American Soybean Association and National Corn Growers Association echoed the company-to-consumer transparency sentiment communicated by the USDA.