Bioengineered label preview

First Look at the Bioengineered Label Final Rule

Editor’s note: The USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) released their bioengineered label final rule today. Learn about the bioengineered label’s definitions in Anastasia Bodnar’s post Bioengineered Label – Consumer Impacts and find news and updates on our Bioengineered page. Mary Mangan tweeted her observations, with many helpful screenshots of the interesting bits from the final rule, and we have shared her full tweetstorm here with her permission, with minor editing for formatting and consistency. See Mary’s full thread on Twitter (@mem_somerville) or on the Thread Reader App

  • Well, there goes my day. 239 pages of federal document… Let’s discuss with #bioengineered hashtag. Bioengineered label final rule
  • Pg 8: Pet food not included in label rule: “Therefore, although pet food and animal feed are “food” under the FDCA, such foods for animals are not covered by this regulation, pursuant to the amended Act. “
  • Pg 8: “Other examples of “food” under the FDCA include dietary supplements, processing aids, and enzymes.” Oh, processing aids… does that mean enzymes like in cheese making…?
  • Pg 9: Multi-ingredient stuff has special rules. I will never understand this. 
  • Pg 11: must have DNA, I think? “foods with undetectable modified genetic material are not bioengineered foods” 
  • Pg 12: “For refined foods that are derived from bioengineered crops, no disclosure is required if the food does not contain detectable modified genetic material.” So cheese prolly wouldn’t… still digesting…
  • We have a list. We’re checkin’ it twice. We’re gonna find out who is… wait, what section? 
  • Pg 21: “The following foods comprise the List of #Bioengineered Foods: alfalfa, apple (ArcticTM varieties), canola, corn, cotton, eggplant (BARI Bt Begun varieties), papaya (ringspot virus-resistant varieties), pineapple (pink flesh)…” Where can I get #GMO pineapple?? 
  • Pg 30: Yeasts, enzymes, microbes. 
  • Pg 39: #Bioengineered Threshold will be 5%. 
  • Pg 49: I think this says QR codes and phone numbers are OK. And you can get texts about #bioengineered food. You cannot use “may be…” language. 
  • Pg 62: #bioengineered label can be done voluntarily, if desired. 
  • Pg 67: Enforcement. “records audits and examinations, hearings, and public disclosure of the summary of the results of audits, examinations, and similar activities”. I think this means it’s not via lawsuits and recalls, just paper pushing. But I am not a lawyer. 
  • Pg 70: Mandatory compliance begins January 1 2022. 
  • Pg 77: Can’t tell if something is BE if there’s no DNA. Aligned with other countries, sugar and refined oils exempted from labels. And I heard heads asplode. 
  • Pg 79: We’re telling you again this has nothing to do with health claims, all the “food, including that produced through bioengineering, meets all relevant Federal health, safety, and environmental standards” 
  • Pg 81: I think this says it’s not adding #CRISPR and editing to the definitions. 
  • Pg 87: No, we’re not calling them #GMO. Buh-bye. [editorial comment] 
  • Pg 92: Nah, we aren’t touching “found in nature” either. 
  • Pg 103: #CRISPR / TALENS again. No, we still don’t distinguish on the tech used, but on the ultimate product. 
  • Pg 111: No, we aren’t going after undetectable DNA. [this whole section is a series of comment/responses that are kind of tedious and repetitive in many ways. Zzzzzzzzzz 💤] 
  • Pg 113: Animals fed with #bioengineered foods are not subject to BE labels. 
  • Pg 115: No, if an animal was treated with a #GMO pharmaceutical [say, a vaccine like Organic Consumers hates] it’s still not #bioengineered
  • Pg 117: Grafting non-BE stuff to BE-modified rootstocks does not trigger #bioengineered labeling, “because they do not contain modified genetic material”. 
  • Pg 118: Hipster food trucks are now listed in with “restaurants” and are all exempt from #bioengineered labeling. [Ok, it might not have said hipster…] 
  • Pg 126: Nope, @nonGMOProject and the other schemers not getting a free pass, and they better not mislead anybody. We can only give National Organic Program stuff a pass. 
  • Pg 127: Mutagenesis is conventional breeding. 
  • Pg 128: Let’s say it loud for those in the back: “NBFDS is a marketing standard and not related to health or safety,”(NBFDS = National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, btw) 
  • Pg 135: Oh, did we mention this is a marketing thing? No, we aren’t going for the 0.9% threshold because it doesn’t matter, and would be onerous and costly. 
  • Pg 141: “Water and salt do not contain DNA and would therefore, as individual ingredients under Alternative 1-A, never trigger disclosure.” Things you have to say. 
  • Pg 142: Nah, we aren’t doing PCR. It’s all paperwork. 
  • Pg 143: Nope, we aren’t calling ’em #GMO, and we’ll teach you to like it. 
  • Pg 146. Did we mention we still aren’t using #GMO, and we’ll teach you to like it? 
  • Pg 148: We heard you didn’t like any of the labels. We changed the wording so it says #Bioengineered. Enjoy! [ps you can get the labels here 
  • Pg 151: We heard you hate the QR codes too. Too bad, we have to. But there are other routes. Phone numbers and texts. 
  • Pg 156: There are several pages of discussion of text messages. 💤📱
  • Pg 160: Another section relating to small biz and the burdens of this. There have been several section, but biz sizes aren’t my area of focus so I haven’t mentioned that so far. But they are in there, several sections. 
  • Pg 163: Another section on bulk foods. Like small biz, this is just not something I’m focused on, so it’s there–just haven’t commented on it… 💤 
  • Pg 170+: Record keeping. 💤But that leads to enforcement issues (pg 175)–what happens if there’s a challenge? 5 days to get paperwork together. No fines. No recalls. But we’ll put your name up on the wall for people to point at and laugh. Or something. 
  • Pg 181: Date and rationale explained. Jan 2022 for mandatory labeling. 
  • Pg 187+: Starts the RIA, Regulatory Impact Analysis. Lots of back-and-forth about how (or how not) to calculate costs along the chain from farmers to consumers. I am now too bored to care.
  • Pg 196: Starts the federal paperwork reduction notice stuff… for many pages. Lots more on record keeping. This may be of interest to farmers and grocers, but 💤
  • Pg 206: Has a Civil Rights Review section. I’m mildly impressed this administration still does that… Mostly about phones and data plans. They think the phone number solves this. 
  • Pg 208: Cost estimate for the label program. This is an expensive escapade, for this: “The NBFDS is not expected to have any benefits to human health or the environment.” Your tax dollars at work. 
  • Pg 215-end: Seems to start the official text of the regs. I’ll assume the legal eagles will check on this. And I’m out. /fin 
Science & Society
Mary Mangan

Written by Mary Mangan

Mary Mangan has a PhD in cell, molecular, and developmental biology from the University of Rochester. She co-founded OpenHelix, a company that provides awareness and training on open source genomics software tools. She has published numerous articles on biology, biotechnology, biometrics, and genomics.
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