On July 29, 2016, President Barack Obama signed S.764 into law. The law amends the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) establish and oversee a national bioengineered food disclosure standard. Under the law, USDA has two years to promulgate regulations that establish the disclosure standard, as well as any related requirements and procedures that the Agency deems necessary.
Under the law, any disclosure regulations that USDA promulgates shall: (i) prohibit a food from being considered “bioengineered” solely because the animal from which it was derived consumed feed that was bioengineered; (ii) set the amounts of a bioengineered substance that need to be in a food for it to be considered “bioengineered”; (iii) establish a process by which other considerations may be given to whether a food is “bioengineered”; (iv) require that the bioengineered disclosure be a text, symbol, or electronic or digital link (e.g. a QR or Quick Response Code), with the disclosure option to be selected by the food manufacturer; (v) provide alternative reasonable disclosure options for food with small packaging; (vi) for “small food manufacturers,” provide at least one additional year for compliance with the disclosure regulations, as well as the additional option to disclose that the food contains bioengineered material through a phone number or internet website, (provided that they indicate that the number or URL provides access to additional information); and (vii) exclude food served in restaurants or “very small food manufacturers”—to be defined by USDA—from the disclosure requirements.
While the law should ultimately lead to more information on food labeling and enable consumers to make more informed choices about their food, it has also received significant criticism. For example, opponents of the law say that the definition of “bioengineered foods” is unduly narrow.