With just two years to write and implement the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is working at “lightning speed” and expects to issue a final rule on time in July 2018, according to Andrea Huberty, Ph.D., senior policy analyst in the Office of the Deputy Administrator, Livestock, Poultry and Seed Program of USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS).

Huberty, who is helping to develop the standard, briefed attendees of IDFA’s Regulatory RoundUP this week in Washington, D.C., on the latest progress to the standard. She encouraged participants to contact her or others at USDA to ensure their feedback and concerns are thoroughly considered during the rule’s tight turnaround.

Latest Progress

The standard, set into law last July, requires genetically engineered (GE) foods or foods with GE ingredients to bear text, a symbol or a digital or electronic link to provide that information to consumers. Huberty said the text and symbol that USDA ultimately designs would be informative and neutral, not disparaging or frightening.

“This law is a marketing issue, it is not a food safety law,” she said.

Huberty said USDA is on track for finalizing the study required by the law to identify potential technological challenges that would affect whether consumers could access the disclosure through electronic or digital methods. The study, launched in April with the help of consulting firm Deloitte, will be complete at the end of next month.

USDA expects to release a proposed rule for the disclosure standard this fall or winter, but the department is seeking alternate ways to engage stakeholders before that time, Huberty said.

“We don’t want to burden the industry unnecessarily with this law,” she said, inviting industry feedback, scientific research and other stakeholder input.

Ways to Engage Now

For more information, contact Emily Lyons, IDFA director regulatory affairs and counsel, at elyons@idfa.org.