New GMO label rules don’t use the term 'GMO' The new term is: 'Bioengineered'.

New GMO label rules don't use the term GMO

bioengineered symbol
This is one of the two symbols the USDA will allow on foods made with bioengineered ingredients, which are more commonly referred to as genetically modified organisms or GMOs. (Photo: USDA)

Remember this word: Bioengineered.

It's the term the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has settled on for food labels that will indicate the presence of genetically modified organisms or GMOs in our food. In a final rule published earlier this month, the Agricultural Marketing Service arm of the USDA spelled out the new national mandatory food disclosure standard for bioengineered or BE foods.

It will require "food manufacturers, importers, and other entities that label foods for retail sale to disclose information about BE food and BE food ingredients. This rule is intended to provide a mandatory uniform national standard for disclosure of information to consumers about the BE status of foods. Establishment and implementation of the new Standard is required by an amendment to the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946."

The use of the word bioengineered, which must be fully implemented by large and small food manufacturers by Jan. 21, 2022, is not surprising. Earlier this year, when the USDA released the first draft of the rule, it was clear the term bioengineered would be used — and the not the terms already familiar to the general public: genetically modified or genetically engineered.

In the rule, the marketing service said "using other terms such as genetic engineering or genetically modified organisms may create inconsistencies with the preemption provisions or muddy the scope of disclosure."

What the public will see

bioengineered gmo label Other symbols were considered, but in the end, the USDA decided on these two symbols. (Photo: USDA)

The rules makes it clear that bioengineered foods meant for human consumption must have the disclosure on the label in one of several ways: "text, symbol, electronic or digital link, and/or text message with additional options available to small food manufacturers or for small or very small packages." Some of these methods are more straightforward than others.

  • Text: The text on a product will either say "bioengineered food" or "contains a bioengineered food ingredient."
  • Symbol: Although the USDA considered other symbols, they landed on the two symbols above.
  • Electronic or digital link: An electronic or digital link must be accompanied by the words "Scan here for more food information." This link can come in the form of a QR code and has been one of the more controversial ways for foods to be labeled because not everyone has access to a smartphone or mobile device with scanning capabilities, or they have a smartphone with limited data usage and would have to use their data to obtain this information.
  • Text message: Regulated entities that choose this option are required to include a statement on the package that instructs consumers on how to receive a text message.
  • Small food manufacturers: A phone number accompanied by appropriate language that indicates additional information or a website address can be added on the packaging.

Notice that the last three options don't indicate anywhere on the label that the food item is bioengineered or contains GMO ingredients. They simply imply there's more information to be had; what that information is about isn't even hinted at.

Which foods must be labeled?

fuji apples Not all Fuji apples are genetically modified, but some are and those will now be required to have a label that indicates they are bioengineered. (Photo: Suraj Designs/Shutterstock)

The bioengineered foods that as of now will be required to be labeled — whether they are whole foods or used as ingredients in a product — are: Alfalfa, apple (ArcticTM varieties), canola, corn, cotton, eggplant (BARI Bt Begun varieties), papaya (ringspot virus-resistant varieties), pineapple (pink flesh varieties), potato, salmon (AquAdvantage®), soybean, squash (summer), and sugar beet.

The Agricultural Marketing Service will annually review other foods to be added to the list since GMOs are an ever-increasing category of foods.

The PDF of the rule is 236 pages long. There's a lot of information to digest, but here are a few additional pieces of information about what's exempt. (And these certainly don't cover all there is to know about the new disclosure rule.)

  • Food that comes from animals that ate GMO feed is exempt from labeling. For instance, if the chicken that laid your eggs was fed GMO feed, the eggs don't need to be labeled bioengineered.
  • Pet food is exempt, since the rule covers food meant for human consumption only.
  • Food served in restaurants, cafeterias, salad bars, lunch rooms, food carts or served from other prepared food establishments are exempt.
  • Very small food manufacturers, those whose annual receipts are less than $2.5 million, are exempt.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

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Comment by dogitydog on January 6, 2019 at 2:51am

DTOM Yes, the definition of "Organic" is another issue. Since the USDA owns the term "Organic", they are able to change the definition at their own discretion. Unfortunately, food labeled "Organic" is now less than 100% organic due to the USDA lowering the standards by redefining "Organic". What is fucked is that all agencies created under the guise of protecting us are working against us and for the corporations. Every last fucking one of them!

Comment by DTOM on January 4, 2019 at 6:00pm

Folks, please remember that in the US, the regs are so fucked that they use the following:



The rules for labeling organic retail products, both raw and processed, are addressed under the “Product Composition” section of the USDA organic regulations. The regulations cover the wording allowed on both the front panel and the information panel of a packaged product. 

Principal display panel: portion of the package most likely to be seen by customers at the time of purchase. Your certifying agent will review and approve each of your product labels to ensure compliance.

Information panel: includes includes ingredient statement (list of ingredients contained in a product, from highest to lowest percentage of final product) and other product information.

The four categories of labeling based on product composition & the labeling specifications for each are summarized below:

“100 percent organic” 

“100 percent organic” can be used to label any product that contains 100 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water, which are considered natural). Most raw, unprocessed farm products can be designated “100 percent organic.” Likewise, many value-added farm products that have no added ingredients—such as grain flours, rolled oats, etc.—can also be labeled “100 percent organic.”

Principal display panel: May include USDA organic seal and/or 100 percent organic claim.

Information Panel: Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.


“Organic” can be used to label any product that contains a minimum of 95 percent organic ingredients (excluding salt and water). Up to 5 percent of the ingredients may be nonorganic agricultural products that are not commercially available as organic and/or nonagricultural products that are on the National List.1

Principal display panel: May include USDA organic seal and/or organic claim.

Information Panel: Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

“Made with Organic ______”

“Made with Organic ______” can be used to label a product that contains at least 70 percent organically produced ingredients (excluding salt and water). There are a number of detailed constraints regarding the ingredients that comprise the nonorganic portion.

Principal display panel: May state “made with organic (insert up to three ingredients or ingredient categories).” Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere, represent finished product as organic, or state “made with organic ingredients.”

Information Panel: Must identify organic ingredients (e.g., organic dill) or via asterisk or other mark.

Specific Ingredient Listings

The specific organic ingredients may be listed in the ingredient statement of products containing less than 70 percent organic contents—for example, “Ingredients: water, barley, beans, organic tomatoes, salt.”

Principal display panel: Must not include USDA organic seal anywhere or the word “organic” on principal display panel.

Information Panel: May only list certified organic ingredients as organic in the ingredient list and the percentage of organic ingredients. Remaining ingredients are not required to follow the USDA organic regulations.

Exemptions & Exclusions

Producers who market less than $5,000 worth of organic products annually are not required to apply for organic certification. They must, however, comply with the organic production and handling requirements of the regulations, including recordkeeping (records must be kept for at least 3 years). The products from such noncertified operations cannot be used as organic ingredients in processed products produced by another operation; such noncertified products also are not allowed to display the USDA certified organic seal.


Organic food should be 100% organic  - OR IT IS NOT ORGANIC.

Would you accept something labelled as 95% pure water with the other 5% being human waste?

Comment by Twilight Zone on January 4, 2019 at 4:26pm

dogitydog - Good to know.  Remember when BO (Mr. Transparency) promised there would be labeling?  

Comment by dogitydog on January 4, 2019 at 4:10pm

Diana I shop at a local organic market. All of their produce codes begin with a 9. I have even spoken to the owner to verify it as a code for organic produce. You can thank Monsanto for not allowing labels. They would rather people do not know that the food they are eating comes from a company that specializes in the manufacturing of poisonous chemicals. If GMO's were truly a good product, they would be advertising them with labels, not hiding them.

Comment by Twilight Zone on January 2, 2019 at 5:57pm

dogitydog - Good, I'm glad you've found it valid.  It's BS that they aren't required to clearly label.

Comment by dogitydog on January 2, 2019 at 5:46pm

Diana I am not questioning the code. It is valid according to my research.

Comment by Twilight Zone on January 2, 2019 at 5:20pm

dogitydog - I have read an article from Huffington Post that says it's not a valid code, but I trust them as much as I trust Snopes.  But other articles I've read state these codes, so...that's all I've got.  

Comment by DTOM on January 2, 2019 at 3:45pm

@Diana - There seems to be a lot of debate on the code issues over the last few years -  have you got source that confirms this...? Cheers.

@dogitydog  -

Seems we get it...all the time...even more now that the patent of glyphosate is up and that the Chinese, Indians and others are now producing it in massive quantities.

Comment by dogitydog on January 2, 2019 at 3:08pm

Well, I feel much better now knowing my food is "Bioengineered" as opposed to "Genetically Modified". Mmmmmm..... can I get some extra glyphosate on those fries please?

Comment by Less Prone on December 31, 2018 at 11:04am

The correct label would be Genetically Corrupt. I mean combining the genes of bacteria with plants is insane.

"Destroying the New World Order"


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