The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, a U.S. federal law enacted in July 2016, required the Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop regulations to "establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard with respect to any bioengineered food and any food that may be bioengineered."
Under the law, food companies must disclose the genetically modified (GM) content of products using various labeling options, including a labeling statement, a symbol, or an electronic /digital link such as a QR code that will direct consumers to the bioengineering disclosure. Due to concerns about the digital or electronic disclosure of information to consumers, the agency pledged to complete a consumer study prior to developing the regulation. In September, the USDA issued a report of its bioengineering disclosure study, which included data from more than 150 direct observations and nearly 1,000 participants.
The results of this study indicated the digital/electronic disclosure methods should be effective for the majority of consumers. According to the study, the majority of participants (77%) owned a smartphone, and nearly all national chain stores and regional chain stores provided Wi-Fi in stores. The report acknowledged some technological challenges for certain consumer groups, including older, low-income and rural Americans. In fact, the study revealed that 85% of observed participants struggled with using scanning apps to obtain product information from QR codes or barcodes. To resolve such challenges, the USDA plans to launch an education program to support the use of the scanning technologies by consumers and retailers.
Prior to the disclosure study, the USDA released a set of 30 questions for industry stakeholders to consider in support of the development of a proposed rule now under development by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS). The questions were intended to solicit industry feedback on specific policy issues related to the biotech disclosure law.
The USDA labeling regulation was recently categorized as “inactive” on the federal regulatory agenda, but the agency continues to work on this regulation. The agency is expected to complete the labeling regulations by July 2018 as required by the law.
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture