Food labels convey important information about the characteristics of the food. This information should be clear, concise, and meaningful in informing consumers. Currently in the United States:
- Food labels cannot be false or misleading and they must describe the basic nature of the food (e.g., apple juice).
- Voluntary labeling (e.g., kosher, organic) is allowed if it is not false or misleading.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) cannot require labels to include information about production methods that do not cause material differences in the product.
- Enzyme preparations, regardless of source, that are purified so they do not include DNA do not require labeling as GE. Genetically engineered yeasts and other organisms that do not qualify as incidental additives may require labeling as GE foods.
- FDA has not found that foods from genetically engineered (GE) organisms, as a class, differ materially in safety, nutritional value, organoleptic properties, or functional characteristics from foods from non-GE organisms.
- In July 2016, the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard (NBFDS1), PL 114-216, was signed into law. This law amended the Agricultural Marketing Act and charged the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) with developing a national mandatory standard for disclosing the presence of bioengineered material in human food. The NBFDS does not apply to animal food/feed.
- The term “bioengineered” as defined in the NBFDS includes products that are genetically engineered (GE). The law primarily applies to human food derived from plants. It does not include milk, meat, or eggs derived from animals that have consumed GE feed. It does include products derived from GE animals, such as the AquAdvantage salmon.
- The proposed National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Final Rule2 was announced on December 20, 2018.
- The implementation date of the Standard is January 1, 2020, except for small food manufacturers, whose implementation date is January 1, 2021. The mandatory compliance date is January 1, 2022.
- FDA retains jurisdiction over labeling statements to indicate the absence of GE content in human food.
- In March 2019, the FDA released its Guidance for Industry on “Voluntary Labeling Indicating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Derived from Genetically Engineered Plants.”3
- Scientific evidence supports the safety of foods derived from GE organisms.4 Major scientific bodies and regulatory 4agencies throughout the world have reviewed the underlying research and openly declared biotechnology and the foods currently available for sale to be safe.
FASS supports the principle that mandatory food labeling should be reserved for information that describes material characteristics of a product.
- FASS supports food labeling that is clear, concise, and meaningful in informing consumers.
- FASS supports the use of voluntary process-based labeling to provide consumer choice in the marketplace so long as such labeling is not false or misleading.
Reviewed and revised by FASS Science Policy Committee on June 3, 2020
Adopted by the FASS Board of Directors on November 11, 2020
1 National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. 2016. https://www.congress.gov/114/plaws/publ216/PLAW-114publ216.pdf.
2 National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Rule. 2018. https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/12/21/2018-27283/national-bioengineered-food-disclosure-standard.
3 FDA. 2019. Voluntary Labeling Indicating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Derived from Genetically Engineered Plants: Guidance for Industry https://www.fda.gov/media/120958/download.
4 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2016. Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/23395.