Monday, November 30, 2015

FDA Refuses to Mandate GMO Labeling

Written by Stephen Kenney

On November 19, 2015, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refused to consider labeling of biotechnology foods.  The decision came via the denial of a petition filed by the Center for Food Safety.  The Center for Food Safety is a non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy organization.

The Center for Food Safety requested that FDA “require that foods that are genetically engineered organisms, or contain ingredients derived from genetically engineered organisms – collectively referred to as ‘Foods derived from GE sources’ be labeled under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act).”  The letter asserted that FDA was required to mandate labeling under FD&C Act.

FDA did not find sufficient evidence in the petition to give the agency reason to deviate from its current policy of not mandating labeling.  The petition did not convince the FDA that 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.”   FDA emphasized that GE breeding and traditional plant breeding are not radically different and both fall under the umbrella term of “genetic modification.”  Ultimately the FDA said that it is the final food product that is regulated not the process by which it is produced.  According to FDA, the final product from the genetic engineering process is not different in terms of safety from the traditional plants.

FDA did acknowledge that consumer’s may have an interest in labeling GMO foods, but that consumer interest alone “does not provide a sufficient basis to require labeling disclosing whether a food has been produced with or without the use of such genetic engineering.”  According to FDA, without sufficient basis, the agency could not compel manufacturers to label their products.  

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