That the Food and Drug Administration is opposed to labeling foods that are genetically modified is no surprise anymore, but a report in the Washington Post indicates the FDA won't even allow food producers to label their foods as being free of genetic modification.
In reporting that the FDA will likely not require the labeling of genetically modified salmon if it approves the food product for consumption, the Post's Lyndsey Layton notes that the federal agency "won't let conventional food makers trumpet the fact that their products don't contain genetically modified ingredients."
The agency warned the dairy industry in 1994 that it could not use "Hormone Free" labeling on milk from cows that are not given engineered hormones, because all milk contains some hormones.
It has sent a flurry of enforcement letters to food makers, including B&G Foods, which was told it could not use the phrase "GMO-free" on its Polaner All Fruit strawberry spread label because GMO refers to genetically modified organisms and strawberries are produce, not organisms.
It told the maker of Spectrum Canola Oil that it could not use a label that included a red circle with a line through it and the words "GMO," saying the symbol suggested that there was something wrong with genetically engineered food.
"This to me raises questions about whose interest the FDA is protecting," House Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) told the Post. Kucinich has repeatedly introduced bills in the House that would require the labeling of genetically modified foods.
David Edwards, director of animal biotechnology at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, told the Post that "extra labeling only confuses the consumer. ... It differentiates products that are not different. As we stick more labels on products that don't really tell us anything more, it makes it harder for consumers to make their choices."
The Post notes that the debate over genetically modified salmon, which will be decided at an FDA advisory panel meeting this week, "comes at a time when Americans seem to want to know more about their food - where it is grown, how it is produced and what it contains."
"The public wants to know and the public has a right to know," New York University nutrition professor Marion Nestle told the Post. "I think the agency has discretion, but it's under enormous political pressure to approve [the salmon] without labeling."