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New look for frankenfoods

'Bioengineered' replaces 'GMO' on food labels

Starting Saturday, food with altered DNA sold in the U.S. that was previously labeled as "GE" (genetically engineered) or "GMO" (genetically modified organisms), will now be labeled as "bioengineered," The Washington Post reports.

This new directive from the U.S. Department of Agriculture aims to provide uniform language to replace the variety of state labeling policies. In 2016, then-President Barack Obama signed a law establishing a timeline for banning state GMO labeling laws and empowering the USDA to issue federal labeling rules, which it did in 2018.

Under these new rules, packaging will also include a phone number or QR code consumers can use to access more detailed information.

The policy does, however, include plenty of loopholes. Products derived from bioengineered ingredients do not have to be labeled if they are so extensively processed that no DNA remains. Most sodas and cooking oils would fall into this category. The USDA also allows a 5 percent threshold for "unintended" contamination by bioengineered ingredients. European Union standards only allow for unintended contamination if the amount of GMO products is .9 percent or less.

The Center for Food Safety has filed a lawsuit against the USDA challenging these new rules, especially the use of the term "bioengineered," which the lawsuit argues will be confusing to shoppers. "These regulations are not about informing the public but rather designed to allow corporations to hide their use of genetically engineered ingredients from their customers," Center for Food Safety Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell said in a statement.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, eating bioengineered foods poses no health risks.