New US bioengineered labelling from 1 January 2022

From 1 January 2022, food and beverage products containing bioengineered ingredients in the US must be declared using a new labelling system. Historically the labelling of products containing bioengineered foods/ingredients or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has been controlled at a state-level, resulting in a ‘patchwork’ of rules. The purpose of the new labelling rules is to provide a uniform method of disclosing bioengineered foods to consumers across the US. Read on to learn more about the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, how bioengineered foods are defined, new labelling options and who it applies to.


Defining a bioengineered food

As marketing terminology shifts from ‘GMO’ to ‘Bioengineered’ it’s important to understand what exactly is included in the definition. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 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". This includes a range of genetic modification methods such as genetic engineering and genome editing. You can find out more about genetically modified foods in our white paper, Genome editing and the food industry.


Which foods need to be labelled as bioengineered?

Any foods or ingredients that have been bioengineered and are sold by a regulated entity in the US must be labelled as bioengineered. To support this, the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has generated an initial list of thirteen bioengineered foods which are in production around the world. This list indicates crops that have bioengineered varieties, all of which manufacturers must maintain records for. The list will be updated annually and currently includes:  

  • Alfalfa
  • Apple (Artic™ varieties)
  • Canola
  • Corn
  • Cotton
  • Eggplant (BARI Bt Begun varieties)
  • Papaya (ringspot virus-resistant varieties)
  • Pineapple (pink flesh varieties)
  • Potato
  • Salmon (AquAdvantage®)
  • Soybean
  • Squash (summer)
  • Sugarbeet


Who needs to comply with the new rules?

The new rules for labelling bioengineered foods and ingredients must be followed by all ‘regulated entities’ which include food manufacturers, importers and certain retailers selling into the US. However, some exemptions exist for small food manufacturers (with sales of < $2.5 million per year) and foodservice establishments such as cafeterias, food trucks, and aeroplanes. Not sure if you need to comply? Get in touch here.


Bioengineered labels for the US market

There are three options for communicating the bioengineered status of a food product. These methods are to be used on-pack or signage near to the product:

  1. USDA approved symbols in colour or black and white
  2. On-package statements such as ‘Contains a Bioengineered Food Ingredient’ or ‘Bioengineered Food’ may be used to describe the product or ingredients
  3. Electronic or digital methods of disclosure such as QR codes, phone numbers or text messaging services

The method used to disclose the bioengineered status of a product will depend on the dimensions of the packaging, the preference of the disclosing entity, and where the product is sold. For example, shortened versions may be necessary for smaller pack sizes and QR codes may be suitable for larger in-store displays.


Are there exempt foods from the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard?

There are specific exemptions from the Standard which include highly refined products from a bioengineered source, such as some sugars and oils. These are exempt due to the low levels of detectable bioengineered genetic material present after multiple steps of processing and purification. Other exemptions include products sold in certain establishments like restaurants and certain meat products.


To find out if your product needs bioengineered labelling or how to label your product get in touch with the team at [email protected].


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