The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has issued a final rule establishing a voluntary labeling program for “biobased” products made from renewable biological ingredients. Part of the USDA BioPreferred Program, which also administers procurement preferences for federal agencies, the labeling initiative applies to those products certified as containing a prescribed amount of renewable plant, animal, marine, or forestry material. According to a January 19, 2011, press release, “This new label will clearly identify biobased products made from renewable resources, and will promote the increased sale and use of these products in the commercial market and for consumers.”

The BioPreferred Program has apparently designated “approximately 5,100 biobased products” in 50 categories, but estimates that “there are 20,000 biobased products currently being manufactured in the United States.” As USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan stated, “Today’s consumers are increasingly interested in making educated purchasing choices for their families. 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.”