The FDA recently declined a petition from the US Center for Food Safety (CFS) requesting mandatory labeling of feed and foods made from GM ingredients or agricultural commodities.
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) along with the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) and several other feed ingredient organization have come out in favor of the decision and voluntary guidelines addressing the labeling process.
NGFA “commended” the decision, adding that its members are in support of using the technology to provide an abundant, safe and competitively priced food and feed supply.
By denying the petition, the FDA demonstrated that it supports the safety of GM crops and the approval process they have gone through, said Randy Gordon, NGFA president.
“AFIA is pleased FDA provided the human and animal food industries final guidance on its policy regarding labeling of foods derived from genetically engineered (GE) plants,” Leah Wilkinson, AFIA director of ingredients, pet food and state affairs, told FeedNavigator. “While the guidance is in keeping with the agency’s long-standing policy on the safety of biotechnology, providing specific, contemporary guidance to companies which may wish to voluntarily label a product for the presence or absence of genetically modified (GM) ingredients is welcome and appreciated.”
The FDA decision is likely to give momentum to the federal voluntary GM labeling bill currently being discussed in the US Senate.
The FDA denied the petition requesting it mandate that GM feeds and foods carry labels because of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics (FD&C) Act, repeal a past policy on the topic and require that GE products be listed in the nutrition facts panel.
Instead, the agency said that the petition lacked weight.
“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,” said the FDA. “The petition does not provide evidence sufficient to show that the genetic engineering of plants in the development of foods constitutes a material fact under the FD&C Act.”
Although, there is consumer interest in having products using GM ingredients labeled, that does not constitute a ‘sufficient basis,’ and lacking that basis the FDA cannot make manufacturers alter how they identify their products, said the US agency.
Along with the response to the petition, the FDA also released guidance for use by manufacturers who wish to label their products as either containing or not containing GM ingredients. The guidance offers the FDA’s current views on the labeling topic, but they aren’t rules and alternative labeling approaches might be acceptable, said the agency.
The FDA has not found that foods or feeds including bioengineered plants ingredients are different from similar products made from non-engineered plants, it said. So if manufacturers wish to label their products that is their decision.
But, the FDA does require that labeling be truthful and not intended to mislead, it said.
Labels are to communicate clearly and not imply that a product or ingredient is safer or more nutritious because it either is or is not genetically engineered, the agency said.
Additionally, the FDA does recommend that the term genetically modified organism (GMO) be avoided for clarity and offered ‘not bioengineered,’ ‘not genetically engineered’ or ‘not genetically modified’ as alternatives. However, it does not plan to bring action against producers who use that terminology.