US FDA Comes Under Increasing Pressure
for its "No Labeling" Position on GE Foods

Financial Times (UK) Friday June 18 1999

World News / International

FDA under pressure on GM foods
By Rebecca Christie in Washington

The US Food and Drug Administration is facing mounting pressure for
stronger controls on genetically engineered foods and to require labelling
of GM food.

A lawyer for a coalition of scientists, consumer groups and religious
leaders said there was new evidence that the FDA had ignored warnings from
its own scientists when it designed its policies. The group filed a
lawsuit against the FDA in 1998 asking for labelling and research on the
long-term health effects of genetically modified foods such as corn,
soyabeans and tomatoes.

Also yesterday, a non-profit organisation associated with the Natural Law
party - a liberal, grassroots-oriented US political party - announced a
petition to the FDA, Congress and President Clinton asking for the same
measures. The group, Mothers for Natural Law, said it had gathered
500,000 signatures.

On Monday nine environmental and consumer organisations sent a letter to
Mr Clinton demanding a ban on genetically modified maize. The letter
cited a Cornell University study that the maize may harm butterflies. It
was signed by groups such as Friends of the Earth, the Organic Consumers
Association and the Green Choice party of New York.

Steven Druker, a lawyer for the Alliance for Bio-Integrity, said his group
had obtained FDA records showing that some FDA scientists were concerned
about the safety of genetically engineered foods. The Alliance for
Bio-Integrity is an Iowa-based group that filed the lawsuit in the US
District Court in Washington, along with the Washington-based
International Centre for Technology Assessment.

Mr Druker said some FDA scientists agreed there were different risks
associated with genetically altered plants than with traditional crops.
He cited comments on the 1992 policy by Jim Maryanski, FDA biotechnology
co-ordinator, and Linda S. Kahl of the FDA's Centre for Food Safety and
Applied Nutrition. These comments contradicted the official FDA position,
he said.

The FDA declined to comment on the case because litigation is pending.

On its web site, the FDA said it "is not aware of information that would
distinguish genetically engineered foods as a class from foods developed
through other methods of plant breeding". Labels are required only when
such food "differs significantly from its conventional counterpart" or
includes an allergen not normally present in the food.