‘Genetically Modified Foods are Natural’: Nation’s Largest Food Manufacturers Petition FDA

naked juice

Genetically modified foods should be labeled “natural” says a letter to the FDA from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the trade organization that represents the nation’s biggest food and beverage companies including ConAgra, Cargill, McDonald’s, and Campbell’s.

In a letter to the FDA, the GMA stated its plan to petition the agency to allow the term “natural” to include ingredients derived from such genetically modified foods as corn, soy, canola, and sugar beets.

The term “natural” has recently landed some of the largest food and beverage manufacturers in court for misleading claims. Pepsico’s Naked Juice division recently settled a suit for $9 million and agreed to remove “natural” from its product packaging and branding efforts. Other brands including Pepsico’s Frito-Lays, Campbell’s soup, ConAgra, and Kellogg, have also faced lawsuits over misappropriation of the term “natural.”

Among the many class action lawsuits, plaintiffs claim that the process of creating GMOs is not something that occurs naturally. The World Health Organization also defines GMOs as not naturally occurring. But there are currently no regulations on the term, unlike use of the word “organic.”

The New York Times reports that the GMA said there were 65 similar class-action suits pending around the country. And, the GMA also noted, according to the Times, “legislatures in 26 states are pondering whether foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients should be labeled.” In the GMA’s letter to the FDA, the group noted, “Consumers and the food industry would all benefit from uniform legal requirements and the consistent outcomes that result from federal regulations, rather than state-by-state dictates through court decisions or state or local legislation.”

Connecticut recently passed legislation on GMO labeling that would prevent manufacturers from labeling GMO ingredients as natural. And Whole Foods Market, the nation’s largest organic grocery retailer, just announced that it would remove Chobani Greek yogurt from its shelves beginning in 2014 because of the brand’s use of dairy from cows fed genetically modified grains and soybeans. Earlier this year Whole Foods announced plans to label all GMO products sold in its stores by 2018.

But in a recent letter to President Obama, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) urged him to consider using his power to enforce mandatory labeling of GMOs. “Your administration should re-evaluate the Food and Drug Administration’s outdated policy that genetically engineered food does not need to disclose this fact on required labels,” she wrote. “It is my view that the FDA does have the authority to require labeling for genetically engineered food products.”

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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