FDA Will Hold Public Hearings on GE Foods
to Try to Head Off Controversy in the USA

Hearing place/time details
Headline: Bioengineered Foods
Wire Service: APn (AP US & World)
Date: Mon, Oct 18, 1999

AP Medical Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The federal agency that ensures genetically
engineered foods are safe will hold unusual meetings around the country
this fall to hear what Americans think about bioengineered food.
U.S. scientists have been surprised by growing public resistance abroad
to bioengineered foods. Critics in Britain deride them as "Frankenfoods";
Thailand on Monday banned importation of genetically engineered food seeds;
parts of Europe demand bioengineered foods be labeled as such so consumers
can choose to avoid them.
Buoyed by that backlash, U.S. critics have increased demands that
bioengineered foods be labeled here as well, and two U.S. baby-food makers
even announced they no longer would use biotech ingredients.
Health experts insist biotech foods now sold are safe. They already are
used widely, from the soybeans and corn of tortilla chips and soft drinks
to tomatoes stewed into spaghetti sauce.
"Although people have enthusiastically accepted new drugs made from
biotechnology, some consumers have concerns about the use of this
technology in foods," said Health and Human Services Secretary Donna
Shalala. "We need to ask why those concerns exist, and how we can address
So the Food and Drug Administration begins unusual public meetings next
month to explain how it determines a genetically engineered food is safe,
and to get the public's reaction.
Participants can tell FDA whether they want its food-safety policy
strengthened or bioengineered foods labeled.
Meetings will be in Chicago on Nov. 18, Washington on Nov. 30 and in
Oakland, Calif., on Dec. 13.
Proponents insist genetic engineering is similar to traditional
breeding, where plants are cross-pollinated to produce hardier varieties by
sharing genes.
Genetic engineering is more precise, allowing a single gene to be
spliced from one organism into another.
The FDA closely guards against bioengineering likely to cause allergic
reactions. Food makers would not be allowed to put a gene from nuts into
beans, for instance, because too many people have life-threatening nut
But some critics say genetic engineering might have unforeseen
reactions, and FDA's policy of regulating biotech foods similarly to
regular foods is not strict enough.
While scientists look forward one day to bioengineering foods to be
healthier, with a greater number of vitamins or other nutrients, crops have
been genetically engineered so far mostly to make them hardier.
Corn can be engineered to produce a natural pesticide called Bt, one of
the best natural pesticides organic farmers use. But it sparked
environmental worries last spring when a study suggested pollen from such
corn can spread onto nearby milkweed plants and kill the larvae of monarch
butterflies, which feed on milkweed.

Food and Drug Administration Hearings on Genetically Engineered
Foods--Action Alert

1. Thursday, November 18, 1999, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Chicago, Illinois
One Prudential Plaza, Plaza Club, 40th floor,130 East Randolph St., Chicago,
IL 60601.
For information about and registration for the public meeting in Chicago,
Darlene Bailey, Chicago District (HFR-CE 645), Food and Drug Administration,
300 S. Riverside Plaza, Suite 550-South, Chicago, IL 60606, 312-353-7126,
FAX 312-886-3280, e-mail dbailey@ora.fda.gov.

2. Tuesday, November 30, 1999, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Washington, DC
Grand Hyatt Washington, 1000 H St. NW., Washington, DC 20001.
For information about and registration for the public meeting in Washington,
Patricia Alexander, Office of Consumer Affairs (HFE-40), Food and Drug
Administration, Rockville, MD 20857, 301-827-5006, FAX 301-827-3052, e-mail

3. Monday, December 13, 1999, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Oakland, California
Elihu Harris State Office Building, 1515 Clay St., Oakland, CA 94612.
For information about and registration for the public meeting in Oakland,
Janet McDonald, San Francisco District (HFR-PA100), Food and Drug
Administration, 1431 Harbor Bay Pkwy., Alameda, CA 94502-7070, 510-337-6845,
FAX 510-337-6708, e-mail jmcdonal@ora.fda.gov.

Those of you who live in any of these three areas urged to attend and make
your voices heard. If you want to speak at these hearings you should call
the appropriate contact person and register as soon as possible.

Perhaps of even more significance, the FDA is accepting written comments
regarding genetically engineered foods until January 13, 2000. We
will soon post a form letter on our web site specifically designed to
address this round of comments to the FDA .