‘Blissfully unaware’: Many food manufacturers don’t realize new GM labeling law applies to them and are unprepared for end-of-year deadline

Credit: iStock
Credit: iStock

Compliance with the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS) – which requires firms with annual sales of >$2.5m to label ‘bioengineered’ foods, beverages, and supplements – is mandatory from January 1, 2022. So is the industry up to speed? It’s a pretty mixed bag, according to labeling experts.

For every large company that has already spent months – if not years – gearing up for the NBFDS, there are probably 10 smaller companies who may be blissfully unaware that the law even applies to them.

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The law – which is being challenged in court by some groups​​ who believe it doesn’t go far enough – defines bioengineered foods as those that “contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab ​[​in​ vitro rDNA] techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.”​​​

Related article:  GM canola, soybean don’t harm biodiversity, 15-year Japanese government study finds

In practice, this means that many highly-refined ingredients (starches, oils, sweeteners, emulsifiers) from widely bioengineered crops such as corn and soy will likely not require labeling, because the modified material is not detectible through testing.

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However, the onus is on manufacturers to go through USDA’s published list of bioengineered foods​​, identify any ingredients they use that may be derived from these crops, and then contact suppliers to determine whether they need to be labeled.

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