Sat, Jun 21, 2014 - Page 3 News List

FDA to tighten rules on GM tolerance thresholds

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday released three draft regulations governing the labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which would lower the threshold of tolerance for authorized GMOs in non-GM foods from 5 percent to 3 percent.

“Under the draft regulations, packaged foods containing GMOs or non-GM foods and ingredients that ‘unintentionally contain’ more than 3 percent GM materials are required to label the products as ‘genetically modified’ or ‘containing GMOs,’” said Lee Wan-chen (李婉媜), a section head at the agency’s Division of Food Safety.

Food ingredients that are sold loose or in small quantities are also to be subject to the same regulations, such as soybeans, soybean milk, tofu and vegetarian meat made from soy, Lee said.

Those who fail to comply would face a fine ranging from NT$30,000 to NT$3 million (US$1,000 to NT$100,000), as stipulated in Article 47 of the Act Governing Food Safety and Sanitation (食品安全衛生管理法), Lee added.

Public comments on the draft regulations are set to close on July 19 and the regulations are scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2016, except for the one governing the labeling of unpackaged GM materials, which is to be implemented in three phases, Lee said.

As of this month, the FDA has approved 67 GM food ingredients, all of which are imported, mainly from the US.

Lee said the regulations are designed to assuage some consumers’ concerns about genetically modified foods by improving transparency in GMO labeling.

“We are hoping to help consumers make informed food choices,” Lee added.

With regard to the agency’s controversial decision to lower the threshold to 3 percent rather than 0.9 percent as Minister of Health and Welfare Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) had promised, Lee said the decision was made after factoring in the nation’s food supply and demand.

“Nevertheless, a further lowering of the tolerance threshold is still possible, depending on the effects of the regulations,” she said.

Currently, the unintentional presence threshold for GMOs in non-GM foods is 0.9 percent in the EU, 1 percent in New Zealand and Australia, 3 percent in Malaysia and South Korea, and 5 percent in Japan.

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