Bioengineered Food FAQs
A little history on GMOs and Bioengineered Foods
In 2014 Vermont passed a Non-GMO labelling law, but Congress passed a law in 2016 which preempted Vermont’s law. During 2019 and 2020 the USDA released draft guidelines and final guidelines on how retailers and food producers shall label products and in stores. Producers and retailers have a mandatory compliance date of January 1, 2022.
What is a Bioengineered Food?
The USDA standard defines bioengineered foods as those that contain detectable genetic material that has been modified through certain lab techniques and cannot be created through conventional breeding or found in nature.
The list of 13 bioengineered conventional crops are:
- Apple (Arctic variety)
- Eggplant (BARi Bt varieties)
- Papaya (ringspot-virus resistant varieties)
- Pineapple (pink flesh)
- Salmon (aqua advantage)
- Sugar beet
PDF Data Sheets on theses products can be viewed and/or downloaded from the USDA website.
| If a food or product is CERTIFIED ORGANIC,
it is NOT bioengineered (BE).
Despite widespread familiarity (click for infographic PDF) with the terms GMO and Genetically Engineered, the new labels will exclusively use the term Bioengineered to refer to food that contains genetically modified DNA.
In fact, companies are prohibited from using the terms GMO, genetically modified and genetically engineered to describe products that do contain genetically modified material on the label.
What to look for on the package
Despite the potential for confusion, USDA offers food companies several different ways to legally label bioengineered foods, to be determined at the company’s discretion.
- Written disclosure: The most direct option companies can choose is to provide a written disclosure on the ingredient panel that says bioengineered food, or contains a bioengineered food ingredient.
- Symbol: Companies may instead choose to disclose using a symbol designed by USDA that reads BIOENGINEERED (see image).
- Electronic or digital disclosure: Companies can choose to include a QR code on the package, readable via smartphones, that will lead to a written bioengineered food disclosure when a customer scans it (maybe you followed one to get here). One of the least transparent options, a serious drawback of this method is that it is unfair to shoppers who do not have a smartphone and/or reliable internet access to view the bioengineered food disclosure online. In certain circumstances, companies could also use text messages, phone numbers or web addresses to provide a bioengineered disclosure.
What does this mean for you shopping at the Brattleboro Food Co-op?
You can trust the Co-op to stay on top of these important changes in food labeling, and you’ll start seeing the bioengineered logo on our signs and labelling for veggies, fruit, and prepared food that fall under the bioengineered law. For instance, you will see conventional summer squash, zucchinis and potatoes all being labelled as bioengineered in our store. If the same item is labeled organic it is not bioengineered. You will see this labeling by the end of 2021.
What does this mean moving forward?
The Co-op will continue to review the list of bioengineered foods annually. We will adjust signage in-store as is necessary and will actively seek ways to limit bioengineered products in our Co-op.
Resources about Bioengineered Foods
USDA Webinar re: Bioengineered Foods