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USDA introduces bio-based labeling program

A voluntary product certification and labeling program has been initiated by the USDA’s BioPreferred program to encourage the identification and use of bio-based products.

BioPreferred.jpgThe U.S. Department of Agriculture’s BioPreferred program has announced that a final rule to initiate a voluntary product certification and labeling program for qualifying bio-based products has been published in the Federal Register. This new label will clearly identify bio-based products made from renewable resources and, the USDA predicts, will promote the increased sale and use of these products in the commercial market and for consumers.

“Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in making educated purchasing choices for their families,” says Agriculture deputy secretary Kathleen Merrigan. “This label will make those decisions easier by identifying products as bio-based. These products have enormous potential to create green jobs in rural communities, add value to agricultural commodities, decrease environmental impacts, and reduce our dependence on imported oil.”

Bio-based products are those composed wholly or significantly of biological ingredients – renewable plant, animal, marine, or forestry materials. The new label indicates that the product has been certified to meet USDA standards for a prescribed amount of bio-based content. The final rule applies to product manufacturers and distributors who wish to label products with USDA’s distinctive product mark.

With the launch of the USDA bio-based product label, the BioPreferred program is now comprised of two parts: a bio-based product procurement preference program for federal agencies, and a voluntary labeling initiative for the broad-scale marketing of bio-based products. BioPreferred is said to be a low-cost, high-return market development program demonstrating environmental leadership and creating green jobs and new markets for farmers, manufacturers, and vendors. In addition, says the USDA, bio-based products help not only to increase U.S. energy independence by reducing the use of petroleum in manufactured products, but they also to reduce the introduction of fossil carbon into the atmosphere, thus mitigating potential climate change impacts.

Through implementation of the BioPreferred program, USDA has already designated approximately 5,100 bio-based products for preferred purchasing by federal agencies. The new label will make identification of these products easier for federal buyers and will increase awareness of these products in other markets. USDA estimates that there are 20,000 bio-based products currently being manufactured in the U.S. and that the growing industry as a whole is responsible for more than 100,000 jobs.

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