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Action Alert: Support Legal Action to Strengthen U.S. FDA Regulation of GE Foods
April 9, 2000
Coalition Files Legal Action with U.S. FDA for Regulation of GE Foods
A coalition of more than 50 consumer, environmental, scientific, farm and health groups including the Pesticide Action Network North America filed a legal petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in late March 2000 demanding establishment of stringent pre-market safety testing regulations for genetically engineered foods (GE foods). The legal action aims to replace the FDA's current voluntary and informal consultation guidelines on GE foods.
The submission of the petition has created an official rule making docket that allows the public to write in and support the action. A spokeswoman for the FDA said the agency would review the petition and "carefully consider" it. The FDA is still analyzing some 25,000 public comments it received after a series of public hearings in November and December 1999 on genetically modified foods, she said.
The FDA's current policy makes no distinction between GE foods and foods bred using traditional methods, and requires neither pre-market safety testing and monitoring nor labeling of GE foods. The coalition's petition establishes the legal requirements and scientific reasoning FDA should utilize in establishing a new regulatory system for the review of GE foods.
The coalition is concerned that GE foods are currently being sold or commercially developed without any mandatory government oversight such as pre-market safety testing or labeling. GE foods currently on the market include potatoes, tomatoes, soy, corn, squash and other fruits and vegetables. These foods are engineered to use new genes from different species, viruses and bacteria, and pose potential new health risks such as creation of new allergens, increased toxicity and altered nutritional levels. GE foods are now used as ingredients in processed foods and are present in a number of mass-consumed food products from major soy-based baby formulas to some of the most popular brands of corn chips.
"Labeling and testing are vital given the potential health risks that are associated with GE foods. The most pressing health concern involves the impact of inserting genes into fruits, vegetables and other food products," said Dr. Martha Herbert, pediatric neurologist and vice-president of the Council for Responsible Genetics. "With each gene insertion there is the possibility that a nontoxic element in the food could become toxic and create a human health hazard."
The creation of new food allergies is another major health concern posed by genetically engineered foods. Many GE foods contain proteins that have previously never been present in the human food supply. Under the current FDA "non-labeling" policy, those suffering from food allergies have no way of knowing they are consuming GE foods or how to avoid this potential new source of food allergy. Health professionals are also concerned that the mass consumption of GE foods, most of which contain genetic material resistant to antibiotics, could eventually make treating infections more difficult.
Action -- Tell FDA to establish stringent pre-market safety testing regulations for genetically engineered foods (GE foods). Send comments to:
Commissioner Jane Henney
FDA Dockets Management Branch
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061 (HFA-305)
Rockville, MD 20852
RE: Docket No. 00P-1211/CP1 and
RE: Docket No. 99N-4282
Visit the Center for Food Safety Web site to see a sample letter at http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org and to send comments via email.
Source: Center for Food Safety press release, March 21, 2000.
Contact: Center for Food Safety, 666 Pennsylvania Ave, SE, Suite 302, Washington DC, 20003; phone (202) 547-9359; fax (202) 547-9429; email email@example.com; Web site http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org.