Thursday, January 15, 2009

FDA Will Not Be Requiring Labels on Food From Genetically Engineered Animals

Just hours ago, 5 days before the changeover to the new administration (they must have been in a hurry to get this done, did they anticipate resistance?), the FDA released its "Final Guidance on Regulation of Genetically Engineered Animals".

Here's the Consumer Fact Sheet:
FDA Issues Final Guidance on Regulation of Genetically Engineered Animals

Here's the actual Guidance for Industry document (pdf):
Guidance for Industry: Regulation of Genetically Engineered Animals Containing Heritable Recombinant DNA Constructs

Here's the relevant paragraph on labeling:
"We note that labeling of food from GE animals would be subject to the same requirements as food from non-GE animals, and that as with food from GE plants, the fact that the animal from which food was obtained was genetically engineered would not be material information with respect to labeling. However, if food from a GE animal is different from that of its non-engineered counterpart, for example if it has a different nutritional profile, in general that difference would be material information that would have to be revealed in labeling."
That says to me that the FDA has decided, after 60 days of public comment, to allow food from genetically engineered animals to be marketed without a label indicating such.

The qualifier about a "different nutritional profile" still does not look like it requires that the food be labeled as genetically engineered, only that the nutritional difference be disclosed. If a frozen dinner entree contained a food item from an animal that was engineered to contain higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, only the "Higher in Omega-3" might appear on the label - not the fact that it was derived from a GE animal.

This is disappointing.
Photo from the New York Times "Without U.S. Rules, Biotech Food Lacks Investors". The caption read:
"Even though these Atlantic salmon are roughly the same age, the big one was genetically engineered to grow at twice the rate of normal salmon."

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