US FDA OKs EverSweet as “generally recognised as safe”
The US FDA has issued a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) no objections letter for EverSweet, Cargill’s synthetic biology-produced sweetener – made via fermentation with GM yeast rather than from the stevia leaf – qualifying it for use in food and drinks, according to a report in Food Navigator USA.
The GM yeast used to make EverSweet serves as a processing aid and is not present in the final product. That means the product would not require a GMO label in Vermont, which will introduce GMO labelling in July. But it would not be accepted for a Non-GMO Project label, as ingredients produced via synthetic biology don’t qualify.
There is no evidence to justify the GRAS status for this product. And there is a worrying precedent to suggest that far more care should be taken to verify its non-toxicity.
Back in the 1980s a food supplement, L-tryptophan, was produced with GM bacteria. The final L-tryptophan product was 99% pure and was devoid of DNA – yet it contained a novel toxin that killed 37 people and disabled over 1500 others. The suspected novel toxin was present at less than 0.1% of the final marketed product.
If this L-tryptophan product were first produced today, then by the US FDA’s standards, it would be passed as GRAS on the grounds that it is substantially equivalent to the same substance obtained from non-GM organisms. In other words, the same tragedy would result.