There are two new GMO food labels coming to a grocery store near you—at least, by Jan. 1, 2020 (and in some cases, Jan. 1, 2021). The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released a new regulations for how manufacturers and producers must disclose food and beverage with GMO status.

What exactly does GMO mean, anyway? GMO stands for genetically modified organism—and it’s exactly what the name says. GMO foods are made using the tools of agricultural biotechnology, including organism-altering breeding techniques along with genetic engineering. GMO versus non-GMO food debate aside, it’s actually an outdated term to describe these foods. The new lingo? Calling foods “bioengineered”—or BE, for short.

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As part of the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law of 2016, the USDA was tasked with developing a standard for disclosing bioengineered (BE) foods. These new BE labels will feature the words “Bioengineered” or “Derived from Bioengineering.” This new labeling standard will create a uniform way for consumers to better understand from where their food comes.

Photo: Courtesy of USDA

All major food and beverage manufacturers, importers and some retailers must start using the new labels starting Jan. 1, 2020. Small food manufacturers have an additional year to start using the label. According to the USDA’s website, “regulated entities” can also disclose BE status via “text, symbol, electronic or digital link, and/or text message. Additional options such as a phone number or web address are available to small food manufacturers or for small and very small packages.”

—Erica Loop

 

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