OCA & Center for Food Safety Denounce FDA's New
Guidelines for Regulating GE Food


May 3, 2000

WASHINGTON -- New rules to be announced today by the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) governing testing and labeling of genetically
engineered foods will not protect the American public. Contrary to the
blueprint for effective rules detailed in the legal petition to FDA
filed by the Center for Food Safety and 50 other scientific, consumer,
environmental and farm organizations in March, FDA's new rules provide
no genuine safeguards for consumers.

"This announcement means FDA will not be doing any testing on
genetically engineered food, but instead relying solely on industry
data," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food
Safety. "Under the new FDA policy, tens of millions of American
consumers will still be the guinea pigs testing the safety of these
foods. Voluntary labeling means consumers won't see any labels out of
this, and won't have a right to choose."

Consultation Is Not Testing

Today's announcement that FDA will not require mandatory pre-market
safety testing of GE foods, but rather engage in "consultations" with
food producers is a major disservice to the American consumer.
"Consultations are not the same as unbiased, rigorous pre-market safety
testing. These discussions with GE food producers fall far short of the
thorough testing needed to determine the safety of GE foods, and should
not be confused as being the same as requiring actual safety testing,"
said Kimbrell.

FDA still clings to its "no-testing" policy despite FDA's own scientists
admitting that GE food poses significant risksóincluding creation of new
toxins, novel allergens and antibiotic resistance. While consultations
are mandatory, safety testing is still voluntary with each GE food

"Mandatory consultations" have no legal meaning. The alteration of food
involved in genetic engineeringóthe addition of new genes, bacterial
vectors, viral promoters, and anti-biotic marker systemsóshould go
through the rigorous safety and toxicological tests required of all
"food additives," whether chemical or biological. Rules should include
new testing for such things as unknown allergens, novel toxins and
changes in nutritional content. To date, the FDA has refused to require
this food additive testing for GE foods.

"These informal FDA consultations with biotech food producers, even if
mandatory, fall far short of any mandatory food additive safety testing,
as is required by law," said Kimbrell. "The FDA's use of the word
mandatory is simply a ruse to avoid requiring GE foods to undergo the
pre-market food testing required of all other additives."
Voluntary Labeling Means that Consumers Will be Deprived of Their Right
to Choose

The FDA's new policy also rejects the mandatory labeling of GE foods, a
policy supported by the vast majority of Americans. Instead the agency
has created a "GE Free" voluntary labeling scheme which violates the
right of the American consumer to know which foods have been genetically
engineered. Under the new FDA policy not a single producer of GE foods
will have to reveal that their product is genetically engineered.
Instead, FDA's voluntary "GE Free" labeling policy reverses the labeling
burden from those using GE to those who are not using this technology.
Clearly, those who are introducing GE food into the market should be
required to label their foods as "genetically engineered." FDA's new
voluntary labeling idea will punish those not using the technology by
putting the burden on them to certify, test and label their foods as "GE
Free." Many companies will not want to undergo the considerable time,
expense and liability of testing, certifying and labeling their foods as
"GE Free." As a result, consumers will not be informed which foods have
been genetically engineered and which have not. The only sure way to
ensure consumers right to know about GE foods is to require labeling of
foods which have been genetically engineered. FDA's new voluntary
labeling policy serves the interests of a few biotechnology companies at
the expense of the rest of the food industry and millions of consumers.

CFS Lawsuit Against FDA

In May 1998, the CFS, the Organic Consumers Association, and other public
interest groups filed an historic lawsuit against FDA seeking to
overturn its non-testing (voluntary consultation), non-mandatory
labeling 1992 policy on GE foods for violations of the Federal Food,
Drug and Cosmetic Act. The Center for Food Safety is a plaintiff and
serves as lead attorney in lawsuit. The decision is currently pending in
the United States District Court for District of Columbia.

CFS Legal Petition on Safety Testing

On March 21, 2000, the Center for Food Safety spearheaded an
unprecedented coalition of over 50 scientific, consumer, environmental
and farm organizations in the filing of a legal petition with the FDA
demanding the development of a thorough pre-market and environmental
testing regime and mandatory labeling for GE foods. The petition
provided FDA with a blueprint for developing a mandatory pre-market
safety regime based upon the legal requirements of the Food Additive
petition process.

Web site: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/

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