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6-Regulation: Battle over GE foods set to escalate with new US congress

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TITLE:  Battle over gene-altered foods set to escalate with new session of
SOURCE: The Boston Globe, USA, by Ronald Rosenberg
        edited and sent by Agnet, Canada
DATE:   November 8, 2000

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Battle over gene-altered foods set to escalate with new session of congress

The biotechnology industry is, according to this story, bracing for a 
renewed campaign by consumer activists next year to restrict the movement 
toward genetically modified foods. The story cites biotech leaders 
anticipate the pressure could begin when Congress reconvenes in January and 
could extend to the US Food and Drug Administration. Michael Phillips, 
director of the food and agriculture section of the Biotechnology Industry 
Organization, a national trade group, was quoted as saying, "The activists 
who question biotechnology in foods will try to make some inroads in the 
acceptability of these products and some rules will change at the FDA. We 
anticipate more discussion, and people will try to make changes via 
legislation in labeling of genetically modified foods, but they won't be 

The story says that the FDA is expected to introduce new guidelines on 
genetically modified foods as early as next month. The new guidelines 
require producers to notify the FDA at least four months in advance of 
plans to put any bioengineered food on supermarket shelves.

The story adds that Congress is also expected to debate legislation that 
would prohibit state and local governments from passing food safety laws, 
mandating the labeling of genetically modified foods, that are tougher than 
federal laws. The goal of such legislation is to have a single federal law 
rather than separate state laws. And the House and the Senate will once 
again be asked to require the inclusion of "genetically modified" or 
similar words on packaging of foods sold to the public. Supporters maintain 
the distinction is as important as current requirements that list 
ingredients and identify how much fat, sugar, protein and carbohydrates are 
in food products.

Gene Grabowski, vice president of communications at the Grocery 
Manufacturers of America, was quoted as saying, "Mandating that `biotech' 
or `genetically modified' [be put] on food labels implies that there is 
something wrong with the food." The story adds that Federal regulators are 
reportedly considering an alternative: labeling foods that do not contain 
genetically modified ingredients.

The story goes on to cite a recent six-page report from the US Public 
Interest Research Group, entitled "Weird Science: The Brave New World of 
Genetic Engineering," [can be downloaded at
weirdscience/index.html, HM] saying that the study, cites some plant 
experiments gone awry, crop failures with genetically engineered cotton and 
genetically engineered soybeans, and the insertion of animal genes to test 
whether certain crops are resistant to certain diseases.

Absent from the study are any examples of biotech foods endangering the 
environment or public health. Supporters of genetically altered foods say 
the products are safe, noting that more than 60 percent of grocery store 
food contains genetically modified materials. 

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