Environmental Defense Calls FDA Biotech Foods Proposals Unpalatable

On January 17th, Environmental Defense sharply criticized weak proposals by the Food

and Drug Administration (FDA) concerning oversight and labeling of foods

derived from genetically engineered crops.

“Clearly the FDA doesn’t have a taste for regulating genetically engineered

foods and continues to avoid industry oversight that has any substance,” said

Environmental Defense senior scientist Dr. Rebecca Goldburg.

Today’s weak 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 Goldburg. “To make matters worse, consumers may be shut out

of the consultations, since industry is allowed to keep safety data confidential

until consultations are finished.”

“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,” said Goldburg.

Goldburg was a member of an expert panel, appointed by the US State

Department and the European Union, which on December 18, 2000, issued a

consensus report urging strong regulation and mandatory labeling of

genetically engineered foods.

“Regulation, labeling, and an open decision-making process are vital for

consumer confidence abroad as well as at home,” said Goldburg. “FDA’s

proposals can only hurt US food exports and the US economy.”

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