Two U.S. judges have recommended the FDA step in on determining whether or not foods labeled as 'natural' should be allowed to contain genetically modified ingredients.
Several weeks ago, California judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers ruled a class-action lawsuit be held over for six months, and last week, a Colorado judge, Michael Watanabe, made a similar recommendation in another class-action suit. Both judges are urging the FDA to rule on the legitimacy of using the term 'natural' on genetically modified organisms—foods the World Health Organization have defined as not occurring naturally.
Judge Rogers ruled in the case against Mission tortilla chips (Cox vs Gruma Corp) that "deference to the FDA's regulatory authority is the appropriate course," Food Navigator reports, adding that "the court hereby refers to the FDA, for an administrative determination, the question of whether and under what circumstances food products containing ingredients produced using bioengineered seeds may or may not be labeled 'Natural' or 'All Natural' or '100% Natural'."
Referencing Judge Rogers' decision, Judge Watanabe made a similar decision in a suit against General Mills' Nature Valley Granola Bars : "[P]ursuant to the primary jurisdiction doctrine, this case be stayed pending action by the FDA with respect to the referral made by Judge Rogers," he wrote in his decision.
Hundreds of thousands of consumer petitions have been sent to the FDA in addition to numerous campaigns aimed at pressuring the agency to enact labeling restrictions on genetically modified organisms. But the agency has yet to make any formal decision.
Companies including ConAgra, Frito Lay and Tropicana have all been targeted in class-action lawsuits over use of the word natural on foods containing genetically modified ingredients. Most recently, Pepsi agreed to remove all 'natural' references from its Naked Juice brand after settling a GMO lawsuit claim for $9 million.
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Image: Nature Valley