The Grocery Manufacturers of America and other food industry groups are asking U.S. regulatory agencies to establish guidelines that address claims about modern biotechnology. In particular, a petition to be filed with the Food and Drug Administration will ask the agency to explain some “rules of the road” for manufacturers who may want to use terms such as “GM-Free,” “Non-GM,” or others in food labeling.

GMA was joined by the American Frozen Food Institute, Food Marketing Institute, International Dairy Foods Association, National Food Processors Association, and Snack Food Association in filing the petitions with the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.

“We want to ensure that any claims made about modern biotechnology in food labels and in advertising are truthful and not misleading,” said C. Manly Molpus, GMA President and Chief Executive Officer. “At the same time, we want to meet consumers’ desire for choices in the marketplace and manufacturers’ desire to respond to consumer preferences.”

Molpus noted that the suggested guides would apply existing law and do not seek to expand or restrict current federal laws and regulations that govern claims about food products.

“We believe the FTC and FDA have ample authority to keep the marketplace open and honest, if everyone follows the rules,” said Molpus. “These guides should help us follow those rules.”

“The guides make clear that just as with claims made for conventional foods, information provided to consumers about the use of food biotechnology — or the lack thereof — must be non-deceptive and appropriately substantiated,” he said.

The FTC guides address advertising claims about the use of modern biotechnology in producing foods and ingredients. These guides cover claims for products derived with or without modern biotechnology. The FDA guides are more narrowly focused, covering labeling claims about the absence of modern biotechnology in the production of foods and ingredients.

The guidance suggested by GMA and its co-petitioners for making claims about modern biotechnology in the production of foods includes:

    * Claims such as “GM Free” that imply the absence of “genetic modification” in the production of foods (including food ingredients) may be truthful and not misleading when such terms are qualified or explained as necessary in an appropriate context, so that consumers understand that the words “genetic modification” refer to recombinant DNA methods.

    * Claims that a food or its ingredients, including foods such as raw agricultural commodities, are not derived from or made through the use of recombinant DNA techniques can be truthful and not misleading when adequate testing records, or other appropriate documentation as may be necessary, or both, exist to establish the source and handling of the food or its ingredients.

    * When appropriately qualified, claims that a whole food or food ingredient is “GM-free” or “Non-GM” may be truthful and not misleading provided their meaning is clear in terms of whether they refer to composition differences or to source differences, or both.

    * Claims that a whole food or food ingredient is “GM Free” or “Non-GM” may be truthful and not misleading if they do not imply superiority. If superiority is implied, such an implication could be false or misleading.

    * Claims about the presence or absence of biotechnology must be substantiated by competent and reliable evidence.

    * Claims about the benefits related to the use or avoidance of biotechnology must be substantiated by competent and reliable evidence.

The text of the petitions will be available at on-line at www.gmabrands.com.

GMA is the world’s largest association of food, beverage and consumer product companies. With U.S. sales of more than $460 billion, GMA members employ more than 2.5 million workers in all 50 states. The organization applies legal, scientific and political expertise from its member companies to vital food, nutrition and public policy issues affecting the industry. Led by a board of 42 Chief Executive Officers, GMA speaks for food and consumer product manufacturers at the state, federal and international levels on legislative and regulatory issues. The association also leads efforts to increase productivity, efficiency and growth in the food, beverage and consumer products industry.