A comment period for guidance regarding the use of statements that genetically modified (GM) animal feed was not used in the production of meat or poultry products ended on Monday this week. The document was released originally in August by the US Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
The National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) contributed to the some 200 comments on the guidance, calling for modification of the proposed labeling system. However, the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA) said they didn't comment.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) is in the process of discussing the topic with the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), said Chris Galen, senior vice president of communications, NMPF.
“We will be sharing our perspective with the USDA on how to regulate voluntary absence claims,” he told us.
There are some “unanswered questions” regarding the labeling regulations, he said. “The law did make clear that the use of biotech crops in cows does not trigger a labeling requirement for ‘biotech milk,’ for the very obvious reason that animals consuming bioengineered feed are not GM themselves, nor is their milk, in the case of dairy cows,” he added.
The NMPF also was a part of the group that recently sent a letter to Dannon pushing back against claims the company had made on use of non-biotech feed and sustainability.
“Our broader coalition will be sharing more in the coming weeks on ways we want to engage with the food chain on how GMOs, sustainability, and transparency relate to each other, and the desire of farmers to have honest marketing claims, not deceptive ones,” said Galen.
In its comments, the NGFA voiced some concerns about the potential for confusion from the sample labels for the new system and the use of the term “bioengineering” in the labeling guidance.
“FSIS also states, as it should, that it will utilize the term ‘bioengineering’ as precisely defined in the law enacted by Congress on July 29, 2016, which refers to a food ‘that contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques and for which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature,’” said NGFA. “As FSIS is aware, meat, poultry and eggs produced from food-producing animals consuming feed produced through modern biotechnology do not contain bioengineered (rDNA) genetic material.”
"We are concerned there is a strong likelihood that most of the examples of label claims that FSIS purports in its guidance to find acceptable would be inferred erroneously by consumers to mean that meat, poultry and egg products derived from animals fed bioengineered food may indeed contain such bioengineered material, which emphatically is not the case – thereby making such label claims ‘misleading,’ at best,” said NGFA.
The association asks that, at a minimum, the FSIS should require that any product using a label like “derived from beef fed no GMO feed,” “chicken raised on a diet containing no genetically engineered ingredients,” or, “no genetically modified ingredient” to also carry a statement reading, “No bioengineered material is present in meat, poultry or egg products derived from animals regardless of whether they consume bioengineered or GM ingredients or feed.”
The group is also asking FSIS to review the proposed guidance after the USDA finishes its rulemaking for GMO labeling.