WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has launched a new product label to help consumers easily identify those products composed of — or partially composed of — renewable resources.
The voluntary product certification and labeling is for biobased products, which are those products composed wholly or significantly of such biological ingredients as renewable plant, marine or forestry materials. The label indicates that the product has been certified to meet USDA standards for a prescribed amount of biobased content.
In recent years, consumers have expressed a greater desire for eco-friendly products. However, consumer confusion also has been on the rise as more manufacturers develop products with natural or "green" claims. Furthermore, research firm Mintel predicted that the "'down-to-Earth" trend will impact beauty in 2011 as "free-from formulas — a key trend in 2010 — continue to evolve in an effort to avoid petrochemically derived ingredients."
"Today's consumers are increasingly interested in making educated purchasing choices for their families," stated Kathleen Merrigan, USDA's agriculture deputy secretary. "This label will make those decisions easier by identifying products as biobased. 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."
With the launch of the label, the USDA BioPreferred program now is comprised of two parts: a biobased product procurement preference program for federal agencies and a voluntary labeling initiative for the broad-scale marketing of biobased products.
Through implementation of the BioPreferred program, the USDA already has designated roughly 5,100 biobased products for preferred purchasing by federal agencies.
The USDA estimated that there are 20,000 biobased products currently being manufactured in the United States and that the growing industry as a whole is responsible for more than 10,000 jobs.