The Food and Drug Administration isn’t ready to embrace mandatory labeling regulations for foods made with genetically engineered ingredients, despite an aggressive push from lawmakers and advocates who cite health concerns.
Testifying before a House panel, FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg told lawmakers this week that the agency remains comfortable with a 1992 policy decision concluding that food made with genetically modified organisms — or GMOs — is not materially different from other products.
“We have not seen evidence of safety risks associated with genetically modified foods,” Hamburg said during a House Appropriations Committee hearing to assess the FDA’s 2015 budget request.
She said the FDA is working on fresh guidance backing a voluntary system for GMO labeling, an approach critics regard as insufficient.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) criticized the FDA’s unwillingness to impose mandatory labeling requirements, saying the action is the least the government can do to give consumers more information about the food on their dinner table.
“It’s beyond me that we can’t have accurate labeling,” Lowey told Hamburg at the hearing. “The labeling can’t hurt anybody but it’s possible that the lack of adequate labeling could, of course.”
Food and biotechnology industry groups say they would be harmed by mandatory labeling requirements, which could be costly to impose and cast GMOs, present in as much as 80 percent of the nation’s food, in a negative light.
The business groups, and some in Congress, bristle at suggestions that GMOs could pose long-term health risks, saying that the technology has been in use for decades.
“There’s no scientific basis for concern,” said Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa), a member of the committee. …