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USDA Requires ASTM D6866 Biobased Testing in Labeling Program

ASTM D6866 Biobased Testing in Voluntary Labeling ProgramTo increase public awareness and promote the use of biobased products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is establishing a voluntary labeling program. Under the proposed BioPreferredSM labeling rule, manufacturers and vendors who want to participate in the program may submit ASTM D6866 certification to prove the biobased content of their products.

Eligible manufacturers and vendors of biobased products can use the BioPreferred label on their goods and their marketing materials. A company can only use the BioPreferred label on products that meet or exceed the USDA-established minimum biobased content requirements and when it has provided relevant product information for the USDA BioPreferred Web site.

The USDA accepts public comments on its proposed rules until September 29, 2009.

USDA Labeling Program Eligibility

The USDA’s criteria for inclusion into its voluntary labeling program are:

(1) The product must be biobased.

The USDA defines “biobased product” as a commercial or industrial product other than food or feed that is “(a) composed, in whole or in significant part, of biological products, including renewable domestic agricultural materials and forestry materials; or (b) an intermediate ingredient or feedstock.” The USDA has excluded motor vehicle fuels, heating oil, electricity produced from biomass, or any mature market products (biobased products with significant national market penetration in 1972 like cotton shirts or towels, paper plates, and wood furniture). Inclusion of mature market products will be determined on a case-by-case basis, according to the USDA.

(2) Biobased content of a product must be at or above its applicable minimum biobased content.

For the voluntary labeling program, the minimum biobased content for products is based on the USDA preferred procurement program.  The applicable minimum biobased content for products not within the USDA’s designated items is 51%. The USDA requires ISO 9001 certified or conformant third-party testing firms to use ASTM D6866 when quantifying a product’s biobased content.

After the voluntary labeling rule is finalized, the USDA will accept applications for consideration into the program. There is no specified deadline for submissions as applications will be worked on in a first come first serve basis. Companies can only use the label on the certified biobased product when they receive the notice of certification from the USDA.

Imported Products Can Carry the USDA Label

Products imported for sale in the U.S. can use the label only if they meet specific USDA criteria (the same criteria applicable to U.S.-sourced biobased products) . Even if they are considered to be biobased products in the countries they are produced, their manufacturers or vendors would still have to apply for certification to use the USDA-approved label.

USDA Logo and Biobased Content Statement

According to the USDA, the label must consist of the logo with the phrase “USDA Certified Biobased Product” and a statement indicating the biobased content of the product – both the content and the packaging, whenever applicable. Thus, products can have labels with “Packaging: X% biobased” or “Product: Y% biobased” or both – “Packaging: X% biobased, Product: Y% biobased.” The text portion of the label must be written in English. Translation is not allowed even when the label is used on products sold outside the U.S.

For more details on the proposed labeling rules, visit

About the BioPreferred Program

The BioPreferred program was created by the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 (2002 Farm Bill) to increase the purchase and use of biobased products within the federal government. Its scope was expanded last year to include other sectors as mandated by the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. The BioPreferred Program is comprised of two parts: (1) a preferred procurement program for federal agencies, and (2) a voluntary labeling program for increased commercial and consumer promotion of biobased products.

For more information on the BioPreferred Program, visit

This entry was posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2009 and is filed under Biobased Products, Biobased Regulations .