The mandatory GMO labeling proposal in California went down to defeat only after opponents spent about $45 million to dissuade voters. Similar proposals are popping up in other states, and U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Or) is considering introducing a federal labeling law.
In the meantime, food producers, manufacturers and retailers are working with the Non-GMO Project and other groups to develop audit-based label claims to provide customers with the ability to make an informed choice.
Meat counter managers tell me that a growing number of their customers want to know if the products in their display case come from animals fed non-GMO feed. So, why aren’t meat and poultry products carrying a non-GMO label these days?
Non-GMO meat policies (or lack thereof)
Unlike most packaged foods, meat, poultry and egg products are required to obtain pre-market approval of any label claims from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspections Service. The only problem with obtaining pre-market approval for products that are produced from animals that are verified to be fed a diet of non-GMO feed (or even a diet containing less than 1.5 percent GMO material) is that FSIS has no policy to cover that claim.
When FSIS has no policy, the agency defers to its sister agency, the Food and Drug Administration.
Fortunately, FDA does have a policy covering labeling of GMOs. Sort of. Well, almost a policy. Umm…not really.
What the FDA does have is a “Draft Guidance” on the topic.
The official name of this kinda, sorta policy document is: “Guidance for Industry: Voluntary Labeling Indicating Whether Foods Have or Have Not Been Developed Using Bioengineering; Draft Guidance”.
And the subtitle is: “Contains Nonbinding Recommendations.”
The opening paragraph reads, “This draft guidance represents FDA's current thinking on voluntary labeling of foods indicating whether foods have or have not been developed using bioengineering. It does not create or confer any rights for or on any person and does not operate to bind FDA or the public.”
By the way, it was issued in January 2001.
Non-GMO meat not a federal priority
This draft, nonbinding, discussion document represents the latest effort that FDA or USDA has made to establish a policy that will allow meat and poultry producers to offer products that meet the growing demand for food produced without GMO ingredients.
Two wars, three presidential elections, and one Pope have come and gone since the FDA got serious about developing a workable, consistent policy that will accommodate this growing concern.
Today is the first day of the dreaded federal sequester. Many people in the food business are wondering about their ability to continue to operate under a federal slowdown. Unfortunately, a lot of well-intentioned companies are having trouble operating even when the government runs at full speed.