Regulation of GM Foods
Regulation of Genetically Modified Foods
Currently in the United States, government agencies and the food industry share the assessment of genetically modified foods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the Act), controls standards for safety of most foods that are derived by recombinant techniques. The FDA states that "a food or food ingredient developed by genetic engineering must meet the same rigorous safety standards under the Act as other food products, and the FDA has broad authority to take legal action against a substance that poses a hazard to the public." (FDA/CFSAN) The FDA, in 1992, published a policy that describes their guidelines for food safety and regulation of all foods developed through genetic engineering, which can be accessed on the web. Their website (http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov) provides detailed and updated information on policies regarding genetically modified crops and offers consumers information regarding what genetic engineering of crops entails. In addition, the EPA is involved in setting standards for pesticides used in and on crops, with the help of the FDA who monitors the foods. The USDA also helps regulate transgenic crops by assessing such things as the presence of food allergens. Other prestigious organizations that aid in safety assessment are the National Research Council, the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Currently, genetically modified foods do not need to be labeled as such. The FDA states that it is "not aware of information that would distinguish genetically engineered foods as a class from food developed through other methods of plant breeding, and, thus require such foods to be specially labeled to disclose the method of development." (FDA/CFSAN) Under the 1992 policy, they require GM foods to be labeled if it differs from its traditional counterpart or introduces a food allergen. The USDA has, however, developed standards for foods to be labeled "organic" and will prohibit the use of recombinant DNA crops in organic farming. (Mitten et. al, 1999)
So far, there have been no reported cases where labeling of genetically modified foods has been mandated by the FDA.