FDA denies Citizen Petition requesting mandatory labeling of foods derived from GM crops.

  • In recent weeks, there has been significant FDA activity related to the regulation of genetically modified (GM) foods and ingredients.  Specifically, the Agency recently issued new guidance on GM labeling; approved the first GM animal for human consumption; and requested comments on its “natural” policy, posing specific questions related to whether the use of GM technology should influence or preclude the use of “natural” terminology.
  • On November 19, 2015, FDA formally denied a 2012 Citizen Petition filed by the Center for Food Safety, rejecting the group’s request for mandatory labeling of foods derived from GM crops.  In its response, the Agency noted that the key issue is not the process by which crops are produced — i.e., whether via conventional hybridization or use of GM technology — but whether GM crops materially differ from their conventional counterparts in terms of salient features such as nutritional properties, allergenicity, and toxicological profile.  FDA acknowledged the existence of consumer interest in GM foods and GM labeling issues, but noted that consumer interest alone does not provide a sufficient basis for FDA to mandate labeling of such foods.
  • FDA’s response to the Citizen Petition is consistent with its historical position that it is the product, and not the process, that ultimately must drive the need for labeling distinctions between GM and “non-GM” foods.  The Agency’s response has been received positively by the food and biotech industries, with many stakeholders hoping that it will spur continued Congressional efforts to enact a voluntary GM labeling bill that would preempt state-imposed mandatory labeling requirements (including those looming in Vermont).

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