Effective January 1, 2022, food previously defined as a genetically modified organism or genetically modified food will receive a new “Bioengineering (BE)” label. If the term has left you confused or searching for your favorite internet encyclopedia, you’re not alone. Critics of the new legislation argue that “renaming” new GMOs may cause more confusion and less transparency than its predecessor.
The Center for Food Safety, a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization whose stated mission is to protect the land from the “harmful effects of industrial farming,” has filed a lawsuit asking the federal court to repeal this and other labeling laws instituted by the Trump administration.
“Consumers have fought for decades for their right to know what is in their food and how it is produced,” Meredith Stephenson, an attorney for the center, said in a press release. “But instead of providing meaningful labels, the USDA’s final rules will only create more uncertainty for consumers, retailers and manufacturers.”
Most consumers are familiar with the term, which has been replaced by “bioengineering” – genetically modified organisms, which means genetically modified organisms. A genetically modified organism is “a plant, animal, microorganism, or other organism whose genetic makeup has been modified in a laboratory using genetic engineering or genetically modified technology,” resulting in combinations of plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes that do not occur in nature or through conventional crossbreeding methods. , according to the Non-GMO Project, a nonprofit organization that aims to inform the public of what’s in their food and how to access non-GMO options (and whose stamp of verification was one of the most prominent ways to identify non-GMO packaged foods).
The definition of geometric food is quite similar. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), a bioengineered (BE) food is “food that contains genetic material that has been modified through certain laboratory techniques and for which modification cannot be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.” Despite this definition, some exceptions to the BE labeling mandate mean that many foods containing GMOs under current standards may not need to be labeled in this way under the new guidelines (see Sections 3 and 4 below).
Keep reading to learn what the BE card means to you and your health, and how to spot foods that have not been bioengineered.
Related: What is the black box warning for a drug?
1. Although the requirements for new labels are different, your food is still the same
These labels — both the Non-GMO Project label and the new Bioengineered label — are marketing tools, says Peter Goldsbrough, PhD, professor of botany and plant pathology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, who specializes in GMO and GMO educational practices. . “If you read the USDA position on this subject, it is clear that the labels are for marketing purposes, to let consumers know what they are buying,” says Dr. Goldsbrough. Unfortunately, this new term may confuse people. “Most consumers are really not clear about what GMOs mean, and this will probably add to that,” he says.
However, the new label doesn’t change anything about the composition of the food we buy and eat, Goldsbrough says. Humans have genetically modified crops using selection and breeding since agriculture began, more than 11,000 years ago. “The types of food ingredients that have been genetically engineered or bioengineered will remain the same, and new foods will be added as technology continues to evolve,” he says.
2. There is no evidence that genetically modified or genetically modified foods pose any health risks
“I think one of the most important things people need to know is that there are no health safety concerns about consuming genetically modified foods,” says Goldsbrough. This is the position of the US Food and Drug Administration [FDA], the World Health Organization, the European Food Safety Agency – all of these agencies have concluded that there are no safety concerns with regard to GM foods on the market today.” He adds that the presence – or lack of – a label as non-BE or non-GMO does not It means that the food is healthy or unhealthy.
Related: Why are some food additives banned in Europe still used in the United States?
3. Not every food containing ingredients from a genetically modified crop is required to have a genetically modified food disclosure label.
Food items that contain ingredients considered “highly refined” — such as sugar and corn oil — do not require a bioengineered disclosure, so they will not have a BE label. For example, when GM corn is processed to make oil or corn syrup, the resulting “high purity” component shows no detectable DNA from bioengineered crops, and therefore does not need to carry a bioengineered label. Goldsbrough says excluding foods that use these ingredients makes the number of foods with the BE label much smaller. “A lot of things contain corn or soybean oil.”
Food industry and food advocacy groups are divided over the omission of these products, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, but the USDA has determined that an ingredient is not a biological food if the GMO is undetectable, Goldsbrough says.
Disclosure advocates claim that there is evidence that the HD ingredients contain genetic material, even if it is undetectable. Many products made using the latest GMO technologies such as CRISPR, TALEN and RNAi are not currently testable and therefore do not require a BE label, according to the Non-GMO Project.
Although it’s not required, some companies may choose to disclose that they use those highly refined ingredients that come from genetically modified crops, according to the USDA. These foods may indicate “Bioengineered Derived Ingredients” or “Bioengineered Source Ingredients” on their label.
4. Some foods are exempt from the new BE label law
Products made with meat, poultry or eggs are exempt from the BE labeling law. Multi-ingredient products in which meat, poultry or eggs are the first ingredient are also exempt, even if the other ingredients in the product contain detectable levels of genetically modified material.
The USDA provides an example of a can of pork stew that also contains GMO sweet corn. If pork is the main ingredient and is listed first on the ingredients panel, the soup can will not be required to have a BE label because meat is exempt from the label requirements. If the soup lists water, broth, or broth as the first ingredient and pork as the second ingredient, it also does not require the BE label because water, broth, and broth do not “count”. The only way a soup earns a BE label is if there is more corn than pork in the soup.
Since the new definition of bioengineering excludes foods containing “highly refined” oils and sugars derived from genetically modified foods as well as multi-ingredient foods (such as pork stew), the position of the Non-GMO Project is that “The Law on Labeling of Genetically Modified Foods is not Effective in finding and avoiding GMOs, largely due to restrictions, loopholes, and exemptions.”
5. Non-GMO labels and genetically modified labels will coexist
Foods containing detectable genetic material that are considered bioengineered will be identified on their packaging or label with one or more of the following:
- “Contains an engineered nutritional component”
- Black and white or color icon
- Electronic link (QR code) or digital
- A phone number that consumers can send text messages to
The project’s non-GMO label, which depicts an orange butterfly on a green blade of grass, will continue to be used on a voluntary basis by companies wishing to adhere to the group’s strictest standards.
Related: 10 food and drug interactions to avoid
6. Going for certified organic foods may be the easiest way to avoid bioengineered or genetically modified foods
Products labeled USDA Certified Organic must be free of genetically modified ingredients and bioengineering. “This was decided because the organic food industry does not want to use genetically modified foods, which is a way to differentiate their brand from conventional foods,” says Goldsbrough. So for consumers who want to avoid genetically modified foods, looking for certified organic foods is probably the simplest and most reliable way to do so. “Although there is no evidence that genetically modified foods are harmful, it is a consumer choice,” he says. “If people want to avoid genetically modified foods, this is one way to do it.”
In general, the foods most likely to contain GMOs or GMO ingredients are those that are most processed. “If you go to departments where foods are more highly processed and use corn or soy ingredients, unless they are organic, they are more likely to contain ingredients derived from a bioengineered crop plant,” says Goldsbrough. On the other hand, if you tend to shop for fresh produce, meat, and dairy, it’s less likely to be GMO. Ultimately, this is all the more reason to keep your diet processed as little as possible.