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House Panel Debates Labeling Of Foods That Contain Genetically Modified Organisms
Members of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee Wednesday questioned whether requiring a label on any packaged food including genetically modified organisms (GMOs) would be misleading or helpful to consumers.
Congress has shown increasing interest in getting involved in the GMO labeling debate as the food industry has faced a potential patchwork of state laws requiring it. Republicans and some Democrats are pushing legislation introduced earlier this year by US Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, that would reaffirm that such food labels are voluntary, overriding any state laws that require them.
Currently, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t require labeling for foods that contain GMOs.
Michael Landa, director of FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), testified at Wednesday’s hearing that, in a 1992 policy statement, FDA explained that it found no basis to conclude that foods derived from new plant varieties using genetic engineering techniques, as a class, differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way or pose any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding.
Currently, food manufacturers may indicate through voluntary labeling whether foods have or have not been developed through genetic engineering, provided that such labeling is truthful and not misleading, Landa pointed out.
FDA “is supportive” of such voluntary labeling and, in 2001, issued draft guidance to industry to help food manufacturers who wish to voluntarily provide such information in food labeling to help ensure that such labeling is truthful and not misleading, Landa stated. The agency is currently revising the draft guidance with the goal of publishing a final guidance document to assist food manufacturers who want to provide such labeling statements.
Genetically engineered (GE) food, commonly “but less precisely” referred to as genetically modified food, is food derived from crops produced using a breeding method based on the movement of useful genes from one species into another using recombinant DNA technology, explained Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, of the University of California, Davis.
This method is routinely used in medicine and many pharmaceuticals such as insulin and food processing aids such as rennet are made by genetically engineered microbes.
As a result of the widespread use of genetic engineering in US agriculture, many food products in the US include ingredients such as corn oil, soy protein, or beet sugar that might have been derived from a crop variety developed using GE, Van Eenennaam noted. It has been estimated that at least ..Send more more information