President Barack Obama has signed into law a bill that establishes a federal standard for the labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods and pre-empts state GM labeling laws, such as Vermont’s law that became effective July 1, 2016. Under the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has two years to publish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard and write the implementing rules. These rules will specify the amount of a GM substance that must be present in food in order for that food to be labeled as a bioengineered food.
The bill defines bioengineering with respect to a food as a food “that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques; and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.” Disclosure can be in the form of text, a symbol, or an electronic or digital link. Food manufacturer will be able to choose which disclosure option to use. A small food manufacturer may provide a telephone number or Internet website where consumers can obtain additional information instead of the options above.