Sponsored By

FDA Enters Debate on Mandatory GMO LabelingFDA Enters Debate on Mandatory GMO Labeling

October 11, 2002

2 Min Read
FDA Enters Debate on Mandatory GMO Labeling

WASHINGTON--Lester M. Crawford, D.V.M., Ph.D., deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), sent a letter dated Oct. 4 to Oregon State Governor John Kitzhaber explaining why FDA opposes the genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling initiative--Measure 27--that will be voted upon in Oregon's Nov. 5 elections. Among the reasons cited, Crawford claimed there is no significant difference between foods produced using bioengineering and their traditional counterparts, and FDA does not consider genetically modified (GM) foods to be less safe than conventional foods.

"Food produced via bioengineering should be treated just like its conventional counterparts because, from a scientific standpoint, there is no evidence that these foods differ as a class from traditionally bred foods in any meaningful or uniform way," Crawford wrote. "Nor is there evidence that, as a class, foods developed by rDNA [recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid] breeding techniques present any different or greater safety concerns than foods developed via traditional breeding."

Crawford added FDA previously concluded it is not scientifically or legally warranted to require mandatory labeling for bioengineered foods. However, he also noted there are a few instances in which FDA would consider mandatory labeling for GM food: 1) if the food is significantly different from its traditional counterpart; 2) if the food has significantly different nutritional properties than its conventional alternative; or 3) if the GM food contains an allergen that would be unexpected because of the food's name.

"[T]he proposed legislation would impermissibly interfere with manufacturers' ability to market their products on a nationwide basis," Crawford concluded. "If passed, manufacturers producing products in Oregon or manufacturers selling products in Oregon produced in another state would be required to create special labeling to comply with Oregon law--labeling not required by FDA or other states. Thus, as a practical matter, the Oregon law would require different labels for different states impeding the free flow of commerce between the states."

The Oregon secretary's office announced last July that the initiative would be placed on November's ballot. Oregon Concerned Citizens for Safe Foods (www.labelgefoods.com), which was formed solely to promote the passage of a labeling initiative in Oregon, led the campaign for signatures in order to get Measure 27 on the November ballot.

Since the issue made the ballot, manufacturers, consumers and industry organizations have been taking sides, with FDA being the latest to join the anti-initiative side.

Monsanto and its coalition is spending $6 million to defeat the Oregon initiative, according to Craig Winters, executive director of the Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods. The Campaign and various proponents of Measure 27 are working diligently to assist passage of the measure. Along this vein, the Campaign launched an informational Web site (www.voteyeson27.com), which includes recent GMO news, an FAQ section and a description of Measure 27.

Subscribe and receive the latest insights on the healthy food and beverage industry.
Join 47,000+ members. Yes, it's completely free.

You May Also Like