Groups petition FDA to require labeling of GMO food

By Carey Gillam for Reuters The Center for Food Safety said Tuesday it has filed a legal petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration seeking mandatory labeling for foods made from genetically engineered crops, a move long opposed by big biotech companies.

“They should label the foods and let consumers know. This carte blanche they’ve been giving the industry is not acceptable,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center for Food Safety (CFS), in an interview. “There are novel ingredients in the food that have never been there before,” he said.

The legal action by CFS requires a formal response from the FDA and is the first step toward ultimately filing a lawsuit against the government agency to try to force labeling, Kimbrell said. CFS, a consumer advocacy organization, has filed several lawsuits against the government in recent years and successfully stymied approvals of some biotech crops.

There are thousands of unlabeled items on grocery store shelves that contain at least traces of genetically altered corn, soybeans and other crops. The government is also considering approval of a genetically altered salmon.

In the summer, Biotech crop developer Monsanto Co. introduced a new sweet corn for consumers that is genetically altered to make it toxic to insects and able to withstand treatments of chemical herbicides.

The CFS and the Center for Environmental Health have been calling on food companies that make frozen and/or canned corn to boycott the new corn, which is not labeled as genetically altered. Monsanto and other biotech seed companies oppose labeling and say the crops and foods made from genetically modified seeds are indistinguishable from non-GMO foods in composition, nutrition and safety.

“The safety and benefits of genetically modified crops are well established,” Monsanto spokesman Thomas Helscher told Reuters.

The action against FDA by CFS is backed by a coalition of about 350 organizations that include representatives of the healthcare industry, consumer advocates, environmentalists, food and farming organizations and businesses.

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