Environmental Defense Calls FDA Biotech Foods Proposals Unpalatable

January 17, 2001

Environmental Defense today 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.”