Corn harvest

FDA denies request to require labeling of GMO-containing foods

“The petition does not provide evidence sufficient to show that foods derived from genetically engineered plants, as a class, differ from foods derived from non-GE plant varieties in any meaningful or uniform way, or that as a class, such foods present any different or greater safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding,” the FDA said.

Farm organizations and other agribusiness-related groups were praising the U.S. Food and Drug Administration today for refusing to require labeling of foods made with ingredients from genetically modified crops.

The FDA denied petitions filed by the Center for Food Safety and the Truth in Labeling Coalition that requested FDA mandate GMO labels on biotech food products because they were “materially different” from other crops.

“The petition does not provide evidence sufficient to show that foods derived from genetically engineered plants, as a class, differ from foods derived from non-GE plant varieties in any meaningful or uniform way, or that as a class, such foods present any different or greater safety concerns than foods developed by traditional plant breeding,” the FDA said.

“This is a victory for consumers and farmers alike,” said Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation. “This administration has long been a champion for nutrition, and today’s action recognizes how biotechnology is changing the way we grow food – for the better.”

Also commending the FDA was the American Soybean Association, National Corn Growers Association and the National Grain and Feed Association.

“The NGFA supports agricultural biotechnology and other scientific advancements that promote a safe, abundant and competitively priced food and feed supply," said NGFA President Randy Gordon in a statement.

“The FDA affirmed today that it relies on science-based decision making and is confident in the safety of GE crops that have been approved under the U.S. regulatory system, and that there is no legal basis for mandating labeling of food or feed containing biotech ingredients that have been found to be as safe or safer than their conventional counterparts."

In its ruling, the agency rejected the argument of those urging mandatory GMO labeling that genetically engineered foods are somehow materially different, as a class, than food derived from traditional breeding techniques.

“FDA states correctly, in our view, that the determination of whether labeling should be required should not be depend on the process used to produce a food, without regard to its effect on the food,” said Gordon.

“Instead, a material difference designation should be reserved for if and when a biotech-enhanced trait alters the functional, nutritional or compositional characteristics, allergenicity or other attributes of a food or feed, which biotech ingredients, as a class, clearly do not.”

The American Seed Trade Association, the organization representing more than 700 companies involved in seed production, plant breeding and related industries, also weighed in, noting the FDA had once again ruled there is no evidence to suggest genetically modified food is different than conventionally grown food.

“We applaud the FDA’s decision to stand up for science and reject calls for mandatory labeling of GE foods,” said ASTA President and CEO Andrew LaVigne. “The FDA has made it clear—as it did in its 1992 policy—that there is insufficient evidence to suggest that foods derived from GE organisms differ from foods derived from non-GE organisms in any meaningful way, or that they present any greater safety concerns.

“ASTA continues to support voluntary labeling and the U.S. government’s use of sound science in agriculture policies.”

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed legislation creating a national standard for food and feed labeling for those who voluntarily wish to label their products as either containing or not containing biotech-enhanced ingredients. The bill is now on the Senate.

Lawmakers are considering using the omnibus spending package as a vehicle to preempt states from mandating GMO labels on foods that contain ingredients made through biotechnology. Congress has until Dec. 11 to pass the fiscal 2016 spending bill, while the first state labeling law takes effect in Vermont next July.

For more information on the FDA’s ruling, go to http://www.fda.gov/food/foodscienceresearch/geplants/ucm461831.htm.

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