WASHINGTON - Now that it has held three meetings to listen to public concerns about genetically engineered foods, the question is whether the FDA must take some action to satisfy its critics. A tea leaf reading, based on questions the agency asked its panels of guest experts, suggests that one course of action would be for FDA to expand the range of safety tests it recommends that companies conduct on GE products as well as making its existing consultation process mandatory.

Short of requiring that GE foods be labeled, FDA also could embark on an educational campaign or enlist other entities to regulate labeling on a voluntary basis.