FDA Adheres to Science: No Mandatory GMO Labels

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Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 1.11.10 PMIn 2012 the Center for Food Safety filed a petition with the FDA asking that the agency require that foods produced from genetically engineered (GMO) crops be labelled as such. Finally, the FDA has responded. It said "no".

Of course, the agency said quite a bit more than that its response ran to 30 pages. But the gist of the response was basically that it's not the process by which a food is produced (or a crop is grown) that is important for human or animal health and nutrition, but the characteristics of the food itself.

Back in 1992, when the agency considered genetically engineered crops, as one type of "new plant varieties" it stated that:

"it was not aware of any information showing that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding. Further, FDA concluded that the method of development of a new plant variety (including the use of new techniques such as rDNA technology) is generally not material information... and would not usually be required to be disclosed in the labeling for the food."

The latest statement underscores this position. It's important to note that by no means does FDA forbid the voluntary labeling of genetically engineered crops or foods produced from them. Indeed, it provides guidance for industry with respect to the type of wording that can be used to inform consumers who wish to purchase foods that do not contain any genetically engineered ingredients. In brief, it recommends labels such as:

  • Not bioengineered.
  • Not genetically engineered.
  • Not genetically modified through the use of modern biotechnology.
  • We do not use ingredients that were produced using modern biotechnology.
  • This oil is made from soybeans that were not genetically engineered.
  • Our corn growers do not plant bioengineered seeds.

Again, these labels are not required; what is required is that they are truthful and not misleading as is the case for any food labels.

Thus, the FDA has come down on the side of science, notwithstanding any of the imaginary threats trumpeted by anti-science activists. Kudos for the FDA!

Science-based information about agricultural biotechnology can be found in the American Council on Science and Health publication Food and You: A Guide to Modern Agricultural Biotechnology.