This is a Fireside Chat at Expo East’s Sustainability Summit with Food Tank’s Danielle Nierenberg at 2:55 at the Philadelphia Convention Center. Information about Expo East, the Natural Products Trade Show, is here.
The FDA weighs in on GMO labeling
The Senate’s proposed GMO labeling bill gives food companies three options:
- An on-package code that consumers can scan with a smartphone
- A 1-800 number
- A symbol to be developed by USDA
None of these does what Mars is already doing on M&Ms, for example—a straightforward, easy-to-read, quickly understandable statement that the product is “partially produced with genetic engineering.”
Now, the FDA has just produced a technical assessment of the Senate bill.
This makes it clear that the Senate has no idea what labeling rules entail. Some examples:
- We note that provisions to allow information regarding the GE content of food to be presented only in an electronically accessible form and not on the package label would be in tension with FDA’s statute and regulations, which require disclosures on food labels.
- We are concerned that USDA’s regulations implementing the mandatory standard under this bill could conflict with FDA’s labeling requirements.
- We note several points in the drafting of the bill that raise confusion.
- It appears that the intent is to have the bill apply to all foods except those that are essentially meat, poultry, or eggs, and that the drafters may have assumed, incorrectly, that products covered by the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Inspection Act, or the Egg Products Inspection Act are not covered by the FD&C Act.
- [One section requires] the USDA regulations to “prohibit a food derived from an animal to be considered a bioengineered food solely because [of a certain fact]”. This is unclear — the language of “prohibit[ion]” and of ‘be[ing] considered”, if taken literally, would mean that an advocacy group that thought of these foods as being bioengineered would thereby have violated the USDA regulation and could be subject to sanctions.
The Senate bill is decidedly corporate-friendly. It is decidedly not consumer-friendly.
Clearly, I’m not the only one who thinks so.