The investigative arm of the US Congress said that genetically modified foods pose no greater threat to health than conventionally produced foods.

A study prepared for Congress by the US General Accounting Office found that consumers of genetically modified foods are at no greater risk of allergies or toxic reactions. Researchers found that the US Food and Drug Administration had carried out sufficient tests on to ascertain the safety of biotech foods before clearing them for the market. The average risk assessment by the FDA for a new genetically modified food product takes between 18 months and three years.

The study, which did not address the environmental impact of GM foods, nevertheless had some recommendations for how the government could improve its procedures. For example, the FDA should more frequently validate the accuracy of safety data provided by food companies.

The FDA said it agreed with the study’s findings but said it should not be obliged to check data on a regular basis. The agency said the risk of criminal penalties for submitting false data was a significant deterrent for biotech companies, reported Reuters.

A number of governments around the world are currently drawing up labelling requirements to inform consumers about biotech foods. A widespread antipathy towards genetically modified foods in Europe has not been imitated in the US.