WASHINGTON -- The Food and Drug Administration here should take a number of steps to ensure the smooth and safe evolution of genetically modified foods, according to a joint public policy position adopted last week by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
These steps include requiring safety reviews for all genetically modified foods and food ingredients and improving education for consumers.
The recommendations came on the eve of the first of three FDA public hearings focusing on biotechnology.
The FMI and GMA, both here, are among industry groups opposing mandatory special labeling of biotech foods, which is on the agenda of some consumer groups. The FMI and GMA support current FDA biotech-labeling policy, which requires special labeling of biotech foods only in the case of a significant compositional change, where the food is nutritionally different from its traditional counterpart or where a potential allergen has been introduced.
The FMI and GMA policy recommendations were further explained in a letter to the FDA from Timothy M. Hammonds, the FMI's president and chief executive officer, and C. Manly Molpus, the GMA's president and CEO. Hammonds and Molpus also held a joint telephone press conference. Recommendations include the following:
Consultation with the FDA should be required for all GM foods or ingredients. The process should include a safety review and a decision on appropriate labeling. "We understand that FDA currently has a voluntary process for the review of foods derived from new plant varieties," the letter read. "We believe a mandatory consultation process would help ensure continued consumer confidence in the FDA regulatory policy."
The FDA should help to reduce consumer confusion over variable definitions of GM foods by "communicating a clear definition as to what constitutes genetically modified foods or food products."
The FDA should establish criteria for GM-free and non-GM ingredient labeling and develop guidelines for claims by advertisers about food biotechnology.
"We support the right of manufacturers to make claims for their products, including 'non-biotech' claims, so long as they are truthful and non-misleading," the letter said.
The best way to educate the public about these issues is to undertake cooperative efforts among the business community, government and the scientific and consumer sectors.