On-Sale Date: 1/4/00
Contact: Richard Reynolds
According to internal documents obtained by Mother Jones magazine, the Food
and Drug Administration ignored concerns raised by several of its top
scientists when it released its landmark 1992 policy statement on
genetically engineered foods. The policy statement declared that
genetically engineered foods are similar to those produced by traditional
plant breeding, and are hence "generally recognized as safe."
Internal memos and computer files uncovered during a 1998 lawsuit brought
against the FDA by the Alliance for Bio-Integrity and the International
Center for Technology Assessment reveal that several agency scientists
raised warning flags: Dr. Louis J. Pribyl of the FDA's Microbiology Group
and Dr. Linda Kahl, an FDA compliance officer, argued that, as Pribyl put
it, there is "a profound difference between the types of unexpected effects
from traditional breeding and genetic engineering." Even James Maryanski,
manager of the FDA's biotechnology working group, acknowledged in a memo to
his Canadian counterparts that "there are a number of specific issues for
which a scientific consensus does not exist currently, especially the need
for specific toxicology tests."
When it comes to GE foods, observes reporter Jon Luoma, the FDA requires
"nowhere near the intensity of testing that would apply to a food additive,
such as an artificial sweetener-let alone a drug." Meanwhile, growing
movements throughout Europe and Asia are raising warning flags over
unintended consequences of GE products, and consumers in these countries
have demanded that all such products be labeled.
In a sidebar to Luoma's article, Bill Mesler details the revolving door
between the government and Monsanto, an agribusiness giant that has
invested heavily in GE products.
The FDA concluded public meetings in three cities in mid-December and is
accepting public comment until January 13. But "given its wait-and-see
attitude-and its close ties to the industry-" concludes Luoma, "the FDA
appears unlikely to use its authority to slow the biotech juggernaut
without additional pressure from the public or Congress."
Richard Reynolds, Communications Director, email@example.com
Mother Jones magazine
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