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Daily News Archive
From January 18, 2001

Environmentalists Consider FDA Genetically Engineered Food Proposal Weak

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) genetically engineered (GE) foods policy proposal, released on January 17, 2001, does not require labeling or any pre-market safety testing for GE foods. Environmentalists consider the proposal very weak and feel that the FDA has sided with the biotechnology industry that adamantly opposes mandatory labeling.

"This is a terrible day for American consumers - the government has failed to protect their health and their interests," said Kimberly Wilson, a Greenpeace genetic engineering campaigner. "While the rest of the world is moving to label genetic foods, U.S. consumers are still denied free choice in the grocery store. Americans deserve to know what's in their food, yet FDA is working with industry to keep genetic engineering a secret ingredient."

The FDA proposal only requires companies to consult with the agency before they market new genetically engineered foods. FDA also proposed guidance for companies who wish to voluntarily label foods as engineered or non-engineered.

"This consultation process is watered down consumer protection, calling only for notification, not true regulatory review. FDA will not require industry to demonstrate the safety of new biotech foods before they go on supermarket shelves," said Rebecca Goldburg, a senior scientist at Environmental Defense. "These powerless proposals fly in the face of public and expert input. In 1999 FDA received 35,000 letters making it clear that consumers want genetically engineered foods to be safety tested and to be labeled. These proposals do not require either."

Doctors and scientists warn that genetically engineered foods could trigger allergies, have increased levels of toxins, or could hasten the spread of antibiotic resistance. The medical journal the Lancet has stated: "It is astounding that FDA has not changed their stance on genetically modified food…. Governments should never have allowed these products into the food chain without insisting on rigorous testing for effects on health."