The US Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) is supporting the inclusion of highly refined ingredients (HRI) – such as oils and sugars – derived from bioengineered crops in the mandatory labelling standard for genetically modified foods.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Argicultural Marketing Service (AMS) opened a public comment period in June – which ended on 25 August – on how to implement the new GMO labelling legislation introduced by ex-president Barack Obama in July 2016.

In its response to the call for comments, the GMA supported the inclusion of HRI-containing products and ingredients in the disclosure standard, noting that as it was a marketing standard instead of a safety standard, it would improve transparency and build consumer trust in GM crops.

The inclusion would have a significant impact on the number of products that would be disclosed under the law as 90% of US corn, soyabean and beet sugar crops were bioengineered, the GMA said.

“Excluding HRIs from the scope of the mandatory disclosure standard would in roughly 80% fewer products being disclosed,” warned the GMA.

Quoting the labelling statute, the GMA argued that HRIs were required to be included in the rules and that the AMS would have the authority to mandate their inclusion, as the law called for “any bioengineered food and any food that may be bioengineered” to be labelled.

Additionally, a determination that HRI were considered to be bioengineered foods would be consistent with “reasonable consumer expectations”.

“Consumer interest in bioengineered foods is based on a desire to understand how a crop was grown, not whether the food contains rDNA. The disclosure standard should seek to provide clear and consistent information that responds to this reasonable interest,” the GMA said.

GMA also sought simplified compliance with the standard, as it would be more practical for manufacturers to comply with a standard based on traceability instead of testing.

Differentiating between plant-derived foods developed through bioengineering and those developed through traditional breeding methods was challenging with current validated test methods, it argued.

The association claimed that manufacturers would continue to disclose foods containing GM HRI voluntarily even if they were not included in the standard, but it would prefer to have a single mandatory standard to avoid consumer confusion.

“A clear, simple and consistent mandatory disclosure standard that includes HRI will assist manufacturers in educating consumers about biotechnology as a safe and beneficial method of plant breeding.”