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Food Groups Outline Recommendations to FDA on Biotechnology at Chicago Public Hearing.

Two of the leading food organizations called on FDA to modify its current policy on food biotechnology and foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). In a letter to FDA chief Jane Henney, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) convey their joint recommendations on food biotechnology policy, in response to FDA's series of three hearings on the subject, which began last week in Chicago.

FMI president Tim Hammonds said one reason which spurred the groups to action was in response to comments from their member companies around the world. The speed of the response to the GMO issue took retailers by surprise, he said. Hammonds said there was a need for an industry group to provide powerful outreach to consumers on this issue.

The two food groups made four recommendations to FDA: 1) create a clear definition of what constitutes GMO foods or food products; 2) carry out consultations for all GMO foods or food ingredients; 3) establish criteria for "GMo-free" and "non-GMo" ingredient labeling and the Federal Trade Commission should develop guidelines for advertising claims about food biotechnology; and, 4) educate consumers about food biotechnology and genetically modified foods and this should be done by industry, government and the scientific and consumer communities.

They said consumers have a basic right to know the relevant information about the products that they buy, including GMO foods. The groups also called for changing FDA's current review process from a voluntary one for the review of foods derived from new plant varieties to a mandatory consultation process to help ensure continued consumer confidence in FDA.

GMA chief Manly Molpus said "it is important that we are advocating some specific actions that FDA can take to inform consumers." The American public has confidence in the government and will trust it once they understand the approval process, he said of FDA's public meetings.

"The United States has a tremendous asset with FDA in that it provides an individual scientific body.... FDA's determination carries weight with consumers and if FDA has looked at all the aspects of biotechnology and deemed which foods to be safe, then there is a high level of confidence in consumers," said Hammonds.

While the joint effort made several recommendations to the agency, GMA said the federal government's existing food biotechnology labeling policy "provides a comprehensive framework for consumer protection and choice and clearly serves the public interest."

Also in Chicago was the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) which also espoused the view that the "prior to market" review process could be made more formal. NFPA stated that criteria should be established for voluntary label claims such as "biotech free" or "contains biotech ingredients." NFPA recommends that when any voluntary statements are used three criteria need to be met: 1) a detection or threshold limit; 2) substantiation, including identity preservation; and 3) disclosures or accompanying statements.
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Publication:Food & Drink Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 22, 1999
Words:480
Previous Article:GRAPEVINE: News About People.
Next Article:Debate Heats Up Over Labeling Biotech Foods.
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