Washington, D.C. - Statement of EWG’s Scott Faber, senior vice-president of government affairs, on the food industry’s petition to the Food and Drug Administration to permit foods labeled as “natural” to contain genetically engineered ingredients:
Consumers who buy foods labeled as ‘natural’ expect those foods to be free of genetically engineered ingredients as well as toxic pesticides, antibiotics and hormones. FDA’s definition of ‘natural’ is designed to ensure that no ‘artificial or synthetic’ ingredients have been added to the food product.
Unfortunately, food manufacturers routinely label foods as ‘natural’ when they are anything but. And now the food industry wants FDA to allow foods that have been engineered at the genetic level to be called ‘natural.’ This will only sow even more consumer confusion, leading shoppers to believe that products made with synthetic or genetically engineered ingredients are better for the environment even when they are not. Many foods that carry the ‘natural’ label were produced in ways that increase the use of toxic pesticides, misuse antibiotics or include growth hormones. In some cases, consumers are paying more for ‘natural’ products that are no better for the environment than other conventional choices.
FDA should step up enforcement of these misleading claims and reject industry efforts to further confuse consumers by allowing foods labeled ‘natural’ to contain genetically engineered ingredients. FDA should also require mandatory GE labeling on all products that contain genetically engineered ingredients so that consumers can make the best choices for their families.