Food and Drug Administration has put forth new rules which say that no labeling is required for products made from genetically altered animals. The products in this case are the ones that are going to reach grocery store shelves as meat, poultry and seafood.
The new regulations cover a huge range of genetically altered animals. These include some already under development and some that are likely to hit the market in the next few years.
FDA officials have called in for public hearings before companies are allowed to sell genetically modified animals as food to the public.
According to the federal regulators, such a procedure would bring in transparency to a form of food production to which a cross-section of consumers might object.
Randall Lutter, PhD, FDA’s deputy commissioner for policy, said, “We’ll need to do a full evaluation of food and feed safety.”
The FDA rules treat DNA inserted into livestock as drugs. When antibiotics, hormonesdefine or other drugs are used in raising the animals, the companies are not required to inform the customers.
But there is one exception in the latest rules. The labeling has to be there if genetic engineering alters the composition of the food product. For e.g. a DNA has been developed which causes pigs to produce more omega-3 fatty acids in their muscles. So it has to be mentioned on the product that it is high in fatty acids.
The decision however does not have a bearing on cloned animals or their offspring. These were earlier declared as a safe food source by FDA.
Michael Hansen, PhD, senior scientist at Consumers Union, appreciated the concept of public hearings before genetically altered animals are sold as food.
But he did criticise FDA for its delayed attitude towards labeling of such products. Hansen said, “It’s outrageous that they would not require these things to be labeled. Come on, they require orange juice to be labeled if it’s from a concentrate vs. fresh-squeezed. Milk is labeled homogenized vs. not. That’s enough to label, but an engineered animal isn’t?”
The Biotechnology Industry Organization, an industry group, has supported the proposed rules.