European Voice Article on US Bio-Integrity
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- Subject: European Voice Article on US Bio-Integrity
- From: "Steve Emmott (Stephen Emmott)" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
- Date: Wed, 14 Jul 1999 09:47:03 +0200
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08Jul1999 USA: Internal US papers fuel calls for review of approved GM foods.
By Simon Taylor.
CLAIMS that the US government ignored its own scientists' advice on the potential risks of genetically modified foods have sparked calls for a review of approved biotechnology products.
According to official documents from the US food and drugs administration, which is responsible for the safety of all new foods destined for the US market, the agency declared GM foods to be safe despite warnings from its own staff that the new products could pose health risks not present in traditional varieties. Its decision toplay down those warnings meant that new foods would be exempt from expensive and time-consuming tests.
The FDA papers document comments by the agency's own scientific advisers when the agency was drafting its policy statement on biotechnology in 1991-92.
They reveal that a senior adviser on plant toxins warned that "genetically modified plants could also contain unexpectedly high concentrations of plant toxicants". They also show that another official
responsible for ensuring that the FDA complied with US laws on protecting public health wrote that a policy draft was "trying to fit a square peg into a round hole" by assuming that there was no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and those developed using traditional breeding techniques.
German Green MEP Hiltrud Breyer said this week that the documents showed that the US was not basing its support for biotechnology on science but was rather responding to commercial pressure.
"We have long suspected what is now revealed by these documents: the US FDA is no more interested in sound science than is the man in the moon", she told European Voice. "These papers show that politics and big business have manipulated the agenda."
Breyer, who sits on the European Parliament's environment committee, argues that the FDA papers show the need for a reassessment of biotechnology foods which are already on sale. "The EU should now make an independent safety re-evaluation of all approved US gene technology products," she said.
Breyer also insists that moves towards the EU recognising US regulators' decisions under the Transatlantic Economic Partnership (TEP) should be halted. "We should reject any concept of transatlantic mutual recognition or co-regulation," she insisted.
David Bowe, the outgoing Parliament's rapporteur on proposals to revise the EU's procedure for approving GMOs, said the papers showed that the Union was taking the right approach towards licensing biotechnology products by adopting the
precautionary principle and judging each application on a case-by-case basis.
But he suggested that there was a greater need for testing for adverse health effects. "There are some tests for potential toxicity but you do not test as a matter of routine. We need a more broad-based approach to testing," he said.
The FDA papers were obtained by the Iowa-based lobby group Alliance for Bio-Integrity, which has launched a lawsuit against the FDA demanding mandatory testing and labelling of GMOs.
The documents are another example of the growing rift between the US and the EU over policing biotechnology. Senior US official Stuart Eizenstat warned recently that the Union's fear of GM crops was the "single greatest trade threat that we face".
EU environment ministers last month effectively agreed a three-year moratorium on approving new biotechnology varieties in response to growing public concern about the risks to the environment and human health.
Policy Advisor-Genetic Engineering
Green Group in the European Parliament
Tel +32 2 284 2026
Fax +32 2 284 2026