USDA Introduces Bioengineered Food Standard

In a statement on December 20, 2018, Sonny Perdue, the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, introduced the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS). This announcement builds on Congress’ July 2017 National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Law, which required the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create a national mandatory standard governing the disclosure of food that is or may be bioengineered.

Quick Facts

  • General implementation: Jan 1, 2020
  • Small food manufacturers: Jan 1, 2021
  • Requirement: labeling for bioengineered foods or foods derived from bioengineering
  • Requirement: food manufacturers must maintain records for foods which may be bioengineered
  • Public education needed for a broad consumer understanding of GMOs

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Any foods that contain a detectable genetic trait that has been modified by specific laboratory methods, and that could not be produced via traditional breeding or found in nature, is affected by the new standard. The standard’s date of implementation is January 1, 2020; with an exception for small food manufacturers, who have been given an additional year to bring themselves into compliance.

A list of bioengineered foods to identify crops/food available in a bioengineered form was developed by the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), and for which meticulous records must be maintained by regulated businesses. Such record keeping will be used as the means by which suppliers determine whether they must disclose food as bioengineered.

Most importantly, this new standard requires manufacturers of food, as well as importers and some retailers, to ensure proper disclosure of bioengineered foods. There are several options for disclosure, including text, the green “bioengineered” symbol, electronic or digital links, and/or by text message. For small food manufacturers, or for small food or very small food packages, a phone number or web address are also acceptable.

The NBFDS does differ from the Non-GMO Project Standard in what is required to be labeled and the threshold for labeling. The NBFDS does not require the labeling of highly processed ingredients derived from GMO sources and the products of animals (meat, eggs, dairy) fed GMO feed. In addition, the NBFDS does not consider new genetic editing techniques like CRISPR or TALEN to be GMO and their products are exempt from labeling. The Non-GMO Project and European Union have ruled that the before mentioned genetic editing techniques are considered GMOs. The NBFDS establishes the threshold for inadvertent or technically unavoidable presence of GMO’s at 5% per ingredient. This differs from the 0.9% GMO threshold used by the Non-GMO Project.

For more information about the NBFDS and compliance please contact Jamie Welch at


  1. Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard Dec 21 2018
  2., Oct 2 2018

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