Consumer habits largely unaffected by foods labeled for bioengineered ingredients

Despite the existence of the bioengineered label on foods for over a year, consumer behavior regarding food choices has remained largely unchanged.

Starting January 2022, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard mandated the labeling of food items that contain genetically modified, or bioengineered, ingredients in order to avoid a patchwork of state labeling regulations. Under this standard, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has listed 13 specific foods and crops that require labels for containing bioengineered ingredients.

What’s on this list

From alfalfa, canola, and corn to pineapple, papaya, and eggplant, all of these can be bioengineered. Keeping records will help regulated entities determine if the bioengineered food needs disclosure.

Regulated entities that have records indicating that a product they are selling is bioengineered must make the necessary disclosure of that food, even if the food is not on the list.

The USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) says that the list will be reviewed annually in order to include some new foods.

What the experts say

“Some experts suggest consumers aren’t noticing the labels, let alone using them to inform their purchasing decisions,” says a report from KOSU, NPR affiliate. A study from Cornell that covered the labeling regulations in Vermont predicted this, stating that “the national GMO labeling law is unlikely to have any significant additional effect on consumer behavior in the short run.”

Up to 80% of processed food sold in the United States is estimated to already contain GMOs. U.S.-grown corn, soybeans, canola, sugar beets, and papaya are “almost entirely” genetically modified and appear as substances such as sugars, syrups, and oils in food.

The safety of bioengineered chemicals is undisputed by science

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine confirms that research has consistently supported a 2016 report that concluded GMOs are safe.

The USDA agrees, confirming that “studies show that GMOs do not affect you differently than non-GMO foods.” In fact, as the FDA’s GMOs and Your Health notes, “some GMO plants have actually been modified to improve their nutritional value.”

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