ARLINGTON, Va., May 3, 2018 – The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) today noted the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) issuance of a proposed rule designed to implement the national bioengineered food disclosure labeling law (P.L. 114-216) enacted by Congress in 2016.
As a member of the Steering Committee of the Safe Affordable Food Coalition, the NGFA said the proposed rule represents a significant step toward establishing a final standard that is designed to give consumers access to more information about the bioengineered content of the food they purchase, while providing for national uniformity in bioengineered food labeling that is essential to providing consumers with continued access to a safe, abundant and affordable food supply.
The NGFA noted that the safe use of crop biotechnology in food long has been verified by numerous governmental, international and domestic scientific and regulatory bodies, including the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the American Medical Association, and the World Health Organization. “Thus, the bioengineered food labeling standard is about providing more access to information to consumers; it most emphatically is not a food safety standard,” the NGFA said. The NGFA noted USDA’s affirmation that the regulatory oversight provided by federal agencies ensures that foods produced using bioengineering methods meet all relevant federal health, safety and environmental standards.
The NGFA specifically noted its support for USDA proposing to grant a tolerance before labeling is required for inadvertent or technically unavoidable bioengineered ingredients contained in food and beverage products. The NGFA noted that a 5 percent tolerance for biotech presence exists within USDA’s National Organic Standard, and with many other countries, including Indonesia, Japan, South Africa, Thailand and Vietnam. Lack of a realistic threshold for disclosure would substantially increase compliance costs, disrupt supply chains and raise food costs, the NGFA said.
The NGFA also commended USDA for proposing to rely upon customary and reasonable business records that traditionally are maintained as being sufficient for documenting compliance with the rule. NGFA noted that this presumably would include contracts, purchase specifications and confirmations. Doing otherwise would create “complex, cumbersome and extremely costly” recordkeeping requirements within the supply chain that could cause companies to shun the handling or use of safe, wholesome and nutritious bioengineered ingredients in their products, the NGFA said.
The NGFA said it recognizes that some consumers may want to know additional information about crops used to produce food, and noted that USDA’s proposal allows for additional voluntary labeling statements using the same parameters proposed for bioengineered products for which labeling would be required. Labeling is required by the Food and Drug Administration to be truthful and not misleading under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
The NGFA said it would join other stakeholders in thoroughly analyzing and commenting on the proposed rule within the 60-day comment period.