In response to a citizens petition seeking mandatory GMO labeling on food products, the FDA recently announced that it will not be enforcing the demand.
The response was delivered in a letter addressed to Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety, which filed the petition in 2012. In the letter, FDA Associate Commissioner for Policy Leslie Kux argues that labels aren’t necessary unless there is either a material or nutritional difference in the genetically modified version of the food. Labeling of foods will be required only if the food is vastly different from non-GMO varieties, or if there is a safety or usage issue associated with the food.
“The determining factor is the final food product and its objective characteristics in comparison to its natural counterpart, not the process used to produce the plant from which the food was derived,” wrote Kux. In other words, the label will pertain to the end product and not the process used to achieve it.
This decision was made based on the alleged lack of evidence proving that genetically engineered foods differ from non-genetically engineered foods “in any meaningful or uniform way,” according to Kux.
While some scientists still waver on whether or not GMOs are safe, concerns have increased since their introduction to the market in the 1990s, and consumers have increasingly asked for the right to decide whether or not they will purchase genetically engineered products. GMOs have successfully been minimized in several countries, and over 60 nations worldwide have required labeling of genetically engineered products to give consumers the ability to choose.
This news comes in the wake of the FDA approving GMO salmon, the first approval of a GMO animal for human consumption.
Today, approximately 60-70 percent of processed foods in the United States contain genetically engineered ingredients. Another major attempt by the public to enforce labeling of these products took place in 2012, with Proposition 37, which would have required that all raw food products containing GMOs be labeled as such, and would have also required labeling of some processed food products containing GMOs. The Proposition did not pass.
States such as Vermont and Oregon have made strides towards GMO labeling in-state, efforts that were banned by legislation nicknamed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act in July.
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