SGS Informs on Regulation and Labeling of Genetically Modified (GMO) Foods
Genetically modified food, products and ingredients, are a contentious subject. Safety concerns persist amongst both consumers and some governments, despite extensive research and industry assurances, regarding the consumption of foodstuffs containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
In Europe, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has defined an application process to evaluate and verify the safety of a GMO. In the United States, oversight of GMOs is conducted by a combination of government agencies, primarily the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), US Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) and the US environmental Protection Agency (US EPA).
PCR Testing for Genetically Modified Food
Testing for GMOs is performed with Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) based DNA technology that can determine the presence and/or the quantity of a specific GMO. DNA-based quantitative PCR testing utilizes GMO strain standards to determine GMO levels. This can be conducted on seeds, ingredients and foods.
GMO Food Labeling Requirements
In Europe, labeling is required on all products that consist of GMO or contain GMO and products derived from GMO, but no longer containing GMO, if there is still DNA or protein resulting from the genetic modification present. The US FDA does however state that any allergen or nutritional difference must be declared on the label or labeling. Otherwise, the labeling of GMO substances in the US is voluntary.
Including the European Union (EU), there are currently 64 countries that require the labeling of GMO products.
US GMO Products Labeling Exceptions
On 19 June 2013, a NGO announced that the USDA Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) had approved a non-GMO label claim for meat and liquid egg products. Products that are allowed to make the claim must demonstrate that the animals’ feed was free of any genetically modified feed. The USDA FSIS allows companies to demonstrate on their labels that they are meeting third party organization standards or claims, providing those claims are truthful, accurate and not misleading. The USDA and US FDA stand by the evidence that approved bioengineered crops and feedstuffs are safe to consume and do not significantly differ from crops developed through traditional plant breeding and they therefore do not require different labeling.
Additionally, on 4 June 2013, the State of Connecticut passed Bill HB 6527 that requires infant formula, or baby food, that is produced from GMOs to be labeled as “produced with genetic engineering”. This labeling is to start 1 July 2015 and the compliance enforcement date is 1 July 2019.
On 12 June 2013, the State of Maine passed LD 718 that requires food and feed produced from GMOs to have a disclosure statement of “Produced with Genetic Engineering”. Disclosure is to take place within 18 months. The compliance enforcement date is 1 July 2019 and does not apply to foods with less than 0.9% GMOs, alcoholic beverages, restaurants, unintentionally commingled products and other conditions set forth in the law.
While no immediate action is being taken at a federal level, 25 states are currently with legislation or ballot legislation. Additionally, there is one US retailer that will require GMO labeling in their store by 2018.
Legislative Future of GMO Food Labeling
While it appears that there may be possible GMO labeling in the future in the US, it doesn’t appear that this will be performed by federal law as once again the US congress voted down GMO labeling in May 2013.
About SGS Food Safety
GMO testing and food nutritional labeling services from SGS can support the food industry and ensure national and international labeling requirements are met.
For more information, please contact a local SGS expert.
SGS is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company. SGS is recognized as the global benchmark for quality and integrity. With more than 75 000 employees, SGS operates a network of over 1 500 offices and laboratories around the world.
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Global Food Marketing Manager