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USDA Seeks Consistency in Labeling Programs

Sep 21, 2016

The U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a policy memo on how the Agricultural Marketing Service will establish consistency between the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard law, which mandates a national standard for labeling foods made with genetically modified ingredients, and the National Organic Program regulations.

Throughout the rulemaking process that will implement the standard, AMS will be guided by two principals to ensure consistency between the programs:

  • No certified organic products will require disclosure as bioengineered; and
  • No proposed rules for bioengineered food disclosure will require that modifications be made to the USDA organic regulations.

In the memo, AMS refers to implementation of the standard as the GMO disclosure program. The memo also notes several provisions within the programs that will also be considered when establishing consistency. These include the definitions for bioengineering, threshold levels of genetically engineered or modified content, and “non-GMO claims” on products.

GMO studies

USDA also released a request for information that will inform the department on the design of a study mandated by the legislation for the GMO disclosure program. This is a first step to gather public input on what the study will examine, which will inform development of the disclosure standard.

Under the GMO disclosure program, companies will have options for disclosing information about the presence of bioengineered ingredients to consumers – including text on a package, a symbol developed by USDA or an electronic option that would direct consumers to a website with the disclosure information.

Congress mandated that the USDA conduct a study to assess technological challenges associated with the electronic disclosure method. USDA plans to conduct an additional consumer study that will determine if consumers will use the electronic links when provided on a food.

USDA expects to solicit study proposals in October, but the solicitation process will be delayed until Congress provides funding for the studies.

Member with questions can contact Emily Lyons, IDFA’s director of regulatory affairs and counsel, at

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