A new USDA label for biotech

Test tubes containing tissue for biotechnology research.

TEXT OF STORY

Stacey Vanek-Smith: The biotech industry is about to get a big boost from the federal government. Today, the Department of Agriculture holds a meeting to discuss a new label for products made from soy or other alternatives to petrochemicals. These are known as bio-based products. Marketplace's Amy Scott has our story.


Amy Scott: If you wanted to buy an energy-efficient air conditioner, you might look for the government's Energy Star label.

The USDA wants to create something similar for bio-based products, like the carpet in Brent Erickson's office.

Brent Erickson: When the carpeting is through being used, you can put it in a compost pile, and it'll be gone in 140 days.

Erickson is executive vice president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization. He says within a few years, the market for bio-based plastics and chemicals could reach $15 billion.

He says a USDA label will could drum up demand.

Erickson: I think it's important to help people realize that these new technologies are out there. And hopefully this will help drive a market for them so that this industry can thrive and grow.

Consumers looking for a green seal of approval may be disappointed. A USDA spokesperson says products bearing the bio-based label may be environmentally friendly, but not necessarily.

I'm Amy Scott for Marketplace.

About the author

Amy Scott is Marketplace’s education correspondent covering the K-12 and higher education beats, as well as general business and economic stories.

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