WASHINGTON -- Final rules on the labeling of products claimed to be free of genetically modified organisms could be months or years away, said Lester Crawford, deputy commissioner of the Food & Drug Administration, in an appearance before the House agriculture appropriations subcommittee recently.
For now, the FDA has a "proposed draft guidance document" that retailers or manufacturers could use in labeling either GMO-free products or those containing biotech ingredients, an FDA spokesman told SN. "They are free to follow it now. They don't have to wait until it is final," he said.
The next step in the process is for the FDA to review and evaluate the comments it has received on the draft, the spokesman said. The comment period officially ended a year ago, but the FDA is still receiving and considering input on the matter, he said.
Ever since the attacks of Sept. 11, the FDA has been focusing on bioterrorism, and issues like biotech labeling have taken a backseat, speculated Gene Grabowski, vice president, communications, Grocery Manufacturers of America, Washington.
But there is no pressure on the FDA from the food industry to finalize the labeling regulations, Grabowski added. "We don't know of many companies that are prepared to market as biotech-free or pro-biotech."