ASA Positions

ASA opposes a patchwork of state labeling requirements for foods containing biotech products and supports Public Law 114-216, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which sets a uniform national standard that preempts individual state laws requiring labeling of what is commonly known as genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We are supportive of the definition of “bioengineering” found in Section 291, which excludes modifications that could have been obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature, and we believe that any rules or regulations promulgated by USDA to implement the law should adhere to the statute.

ASA supports efforts to update the regulatory process or Coordinated Framework for biotech traits provided any changes do not disrupt foreign markets and approval procedures by their governments.  We oppose broadening the definition of “products of biotechnology” to include traits derived through plant breeding innovations, such as gene editing, which would require them to undergo pre-market approval and prevent their widespread adoption in the market.

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Learn more about biotechnology from the Biotechnology Industry Organization.


Learn more about Seed Innovation here allows consumers to research and verify the safety, prevalence and benefits of genetically modified food ingredients by visiting online information posted by credible and independent sources, including governmental food safety agencies, medical and health organizations, news organizations, food safety experts and non-governmental organizations.

Issues Background

Biotech Food Labeling Standards

After anti-biotech activists pushed state governments to impose a patchwork of labeling requirements for GMOs, ASA and others in the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF) launched a grassroots effort and worked with Congress to pass the bipartisan National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, which was signed into law on July 29, 2016 [Public Law 114-216]. The law requires mandatory disclosure of bioengineered food in accordance with regulations that are proposed by USDA and finalized by July 2018.

In 2017, USDA posted thirty questions on their website asking for input on a variety of issues related to the biotech labeling law, including what triggers mandatory disclosure, how to measure compliance, and how symbol would appear on food packages. On August 25th, 2017 ASA together with the CFSAF submitted comments to USDA in response to the questions.

ASA submitted additional comments on topics of significant importance to the soybean industry. The comments advocate for USDA to adopt 5% as the threshold of bioengineered substance present to trigger mandatory disclosure and emphasized the purpose of the law is to establish a marketing mechanism, not a food safety standard. Further comments urged USDA to adhere to the statutory definition of bioengineering, which requires labeling of foods that “contain genetic material that has been modifies through in vitro rDNA techniques.” CFSAF will continue to engage with the administration as the process moves forward.

OMB is reviewing USDA’s proposed rule and is expected to release it in early 2018, followed by a public comment period and subsequent changes before being finalized (expected by July, 2018).

Reform of Biotech Regulations

New biotech traits are regulated and approved under the Coordinated Framework developed in the 80’s by USDA/APHIS, EPA and FDA. 30 years later, in January 2017 APHIS proposed a new rule to reform Part 340 of the Plant Protection Act to modernize the approval of traits.  On the same day, FDA published a Request for Information (RFI) on the regulation of gene-edited plants which requests input about the risks of gene edited plants. FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) published another proposal that expands their scope to include regulation of gene-edited animals, which is inconsistent with the scope of Part 340 Proposed Rule for plants.

While ASA supported the positive message in the Part 340 proposal regarding certain gene-editing techniques, ASA’s comments reflected the need to significantly revise the rest of the rule because as written, it would have stifled innovation and increased the regulatory burden on the ag industry.

ASA also provided comments on FDA’s RFI on gene-edited plants, arguing that applications of gene- editing should not be required to receive pre-market regulatory approval because they are low-risk and similar to plants found in nature or developed through traditional breeding techniques. However, in November 2017, USDA/APHIS announced that the withdrawal of the proposed Part 340 rule and instead will reengage with stakeholders on a new rule.

ASA has urged the Administration to send a positive message on the future of gene-editing and the regulatory environment, as well as engage internationally. On January 8, 2018, USDA presented a report from the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity which urges to promote innovation and develop a more harmonized Coordinated Framework for the regulation of biotech. ASA will continue to engage with the agency to promote advancements in agriculture while advocating for a science-based regulatory system for biotechnology.

Soyfoods Issues

Soybean farmers are proud of our contribution to the $4.5 billion soyfoods market. Soy is plant-based, high in nutrients, and low in saturated fat.

ASA opposes legislation that would restrict the marketing and branding of soymilk by requiring the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to preclude the use of the terms “yogurt,” “milk,” or “cheese” from any product not created from “the lacteal secretion, practically free from colostrum, obtained by the complete milking of one or more hooved mammals.” The makers of plant-based foods are in compliance with current FDA regulations by using the “common and usual” name for the products, such as “soymilk.” There is no consumer confusion about these products.

ASA also opposes efforts by the Department of Defense (DoD) to restrict soy in military dining. ASA is striving to educate the DoD about the many reasons food companies incorporate healthful, functional, and cost-effective soy protein in meat products.

ASA strongly supports the soy protein health claim for heart health, approved by the FDA in 1999. It states that “25 grams of soy protein per day may reduce the risk of heart disease.” Numerous scientific studies published before and since the health claim was approved show that soy protein lowers LDL-cholesterol and that the totality of the evidence supports continued approval of an unqualified claim. FDA’s proposal to revoke the soy heart health claim is inconsistent with 12 other countries that have authorized health claims on soy protein and heart disease.


Download ASA Position Paper on Biotechnology
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