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New Labels for Bioengineered Food

USDA’s new GMO-labeling rules, such as they are, are now in effect.

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Label for Bioengineered Food

As of January 1, 2022, foods that have been previously classified as a GMO (genetically modified organism) will have a new “bioengineered” symbol on the label. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, a bioengineered food is “food that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant DNA techniques and for which the modification could not be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.”

Critics of the GMO rebrand say it may cause even more confusion and less transparency than its predecessor. For instance, many consumers were already unclear about what the GMO label meant, and now changing the label may just compound that.

There are also some allowable exemptions in the BE labeling mandate. There is no BE disclosure required for food items that contain GMO ingredients that are considered highly refined—such as corn oil, soybean oil and sugar—but have no genetically modified material that is detectable. Considering how many packaged foods have these items, that could be a significant omission.

Curiously, multi-ingredient products in which meat, poultry or eggs are the first ingredient listed on the package are also exempt, even if other ingredients in the product—say, corn in a can of meat chili—do have detectable levels of modified genetic material.

It remains to be seen if this labeling requirement for bioengineered food will shift consumer spending; some research suggests it won’t likely make much difference in purchasing decisions.

See also: Move to Label GMO Foods Is Alive and Well

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD

Matthew Kadey, MS, RD, is a James Beard Award–winning food journalist, dietitian and author of the cookbook Rocket Fuel: Power-Packed Food for Sport + Adventure (VeloPress 2016). He has written for dozens of magazines, including Runner’s World, Men’s Health, Shape, Men’s Fitness and Muscle and Fitness.

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