Ask Us: I went to purchase an Osem consommé. And was pleased to find “all natural” on the jar front. When I looked at the ingredients, I found a GMO item listed. How can that product be considered all natural and are GMO items really considered kosher, and if so, how?
There is no standard definition nor any regulation for the term “natural” as found on a product as a health claim. While it can’t be used in the actual ingredient list (aside from “natural flavorings”), the USDA allows the term to be used on products that contain no added colors or artificial ingredients, and have only minimal processing. The FDA allows products to advertise as “natural” if they do not contain added color, artificial flavorings or synthetic substances. Using this definition it appears that genetically modified foods would not be considered “natural”. However, because there is no regulation of genetically modified foods, and terminology is so vague, many companies have been getting away with this very type of confusing labeling for a while. This has prompted citizen activism to promote labeling regulations and require GMO labeling, with lawsuits and their implications being decided sometime this year.
As for the Kashrus of genetically modified foods, there doesn’t seem to be a problem in that regard. Representatives of both the OU and COR responded that while GM foods may be a health issue, they leave that to the FDA and CFIA (in Canada) to decide. Once a food meets compliance with the FDA and USDA regulations, Kashrus certifiers will ensure only that the food meets kosher regulations.
You can learn more about GMO's and their connection to Kosher in the following articles:
Why GMO Foods Should Not Be Considered Kosher - Jewcology