Tuesday, November 24, 2015

FDA Releases New Voluntary Labeling Guidance for GE Food

Written by Tyler R. Etter

On November 19, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released two new guidance documents for genetically engineered (GE) plants and animals for use as food. One document is the finalized guidance on labeling food to indicate if food has or has not been derived from GE plants. The other document is draft guidance on voluntary labeling indicating if food has or has not been derived from GE Atlantic salmon.

The first document, pertaining to plant-derived food products, is meant to assist food and feed manufacturers that wish to apply labels to their products. The FDA’s primary concern is that any label is truthful and not misleading. For foods that do not use GE derived foods, labeling such include a statement in a context that clearly refers to bioengineering, such as “Not bioengineered” or “Not genetically engineered”, among other possibilities. Foods that are derived from GE products must have statements such as “Genetically engineered” or similar declarations. The FDA does not encourage the use of “GMO” or “genetic modification” as such claims are very broad, and encompass a wide variety of alterations, including natural breeding methods.

The second document, pertaining to food derived from GE Atlantic salmon, was released in conjunction with the approval of AquAdvantage Salmon, a GE Salmon from AquaBounty Technologies. The guidance recommends labeling standards similar to the GE plant guidance, with clear context for the labeling directly stating an association or lack thereof with bioengineering.

The new guidance documents are merely recommendations, and are not binding on the FDA or the public. The commenting period on both documents opens on November 24, 2015, and closes after 60 days. Comment for the plant guidance can be made here, and comment for the GE Salmon guidance can be made here.

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