4 May 2002
US REGULATORY GAP MEANS GE FOODS CAN AVOID SCRUTINY
1. US REGULATORY GAP MEANS GE FOODS CAN AVOID SCRUTINY
2. Greenpeace set to grill Nestle
3. Re No Hunger For GM Food Data - Suzuki on industry claims
1. Regulatory gap means GE foods arrive on the market without FDA approval and possibly without notice
May 3, 2002
CSPI Press Release
WASHINGTON -- Biotechnology companies can market genetically engineered (GE) foods without notifying the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or obtaining its approval, thanks to regulatory gaps in a system that consumer and environmental groups today asked Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson to fix. HHS could begin fixing that system, the groups say, by finalizing a rule stalled at the FDA for more than a year. The period for public comment on the rule ended a year ago today.
The proposed rule would require premarket notification of bioengineered foods. And while the rule would not require government approval for GE foods, consumer groups say the rule would be a small step in the right direction.
The signatories of today's letter to Secretary Thompson include the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Environmental Defense, the Consumer Federation of America, the Union of Concerned Scientists, the Institute for Environment and Agriculture, and the Whole Foods Market grocery chain. The letter also called on Secretary Thompson and the FDA to ask Congress to amend the current food-safety laws so that biotech companies are required to seek approval before putting GE foods on the market.
"Finalizing this rule should be noncontroversial, and it would improve the current regulatory system by ensuring that FDA and the public are notified before new biotech foods are marketed," said Gregory Jaffe, director of CSPI's biotechnology project. "But to truly protect consumers from any unsafe genetically engineered foods, we really need new legislation. Only a mandatory pre-market approval process for biotech foods will adequately safeguard our food supply."
Currently, the FDA only reviews safety data on biotech crops provided by seed companies on a voluntary basis. In contrast, the FDA has a mandatory approval process for GE food animals.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also has a mandatory approval process, including a food-safety component, but only for crops that have pesticides engineered into them.
In 2001, two products, including a controversial Bt corn rootworm product from Monsanto, were voluntarily reviewed by FDA without having the benefits of the mandatory notification process.
Also, Monsanto did not consult with the FDA before it inadvertently may have marketed a variety of GE canola. If the FDA had finalized its proposed rule, Monsanto would have been in violation of those regulations. Under current rules, though, Monsanto's actions were completely legal.
"The public shouldn't have to rely entirely on the word of a big biotech company when it comes to the safety of food," Jaffe said. "But under the current rules, companies can bypass the FDA with impunity."
The FDA's food safety priority plan for 2002 states that the agency does not plan to move forward with the rule at issue until 2003. "The public should not have to wait two or more years for finalization of a non-controversial food-safety rule," the groups wrote.
2. Greenpeace set to grill Nestle
Bangkok Post, 4 May 2002
Greenpeace activists will meet Nestle executives at the company's headquarters in Switzerland on May 14 to discuss its alleged double standard concerning the use of genetically modified ingredients in its products sold in Thailand.
Varoonvarn Svangsopakul, of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said she would seek Nestle's explanation on its policy on the use of GM ingredients.
"We want an answer on whether the company's policy on labelling and removal of GM ingredients applied in Switzerland and European countries will be equally practised in Thailand," she said.
Nestle was singled out by Greenpeace campaigners in Bangkok after laboratory tests in April and December last year showed the firm's baby food Cerelac (mixed fruits formula) contained GM ingredients.
Kaspar Schuler, executive director of Greenpeace (Switzerland), said the Nestle headquarters and branches in Europe have committed themselves to labelling products with GM ingredients and to phasing out its use of GM ingredients.
But according to a letter entitled "Nestle Position on Gene Technology'', which the firm sent to Greenpeace in Thailand after the detection of GM ingredients in Cerelac, the company said: "Nestle supports a responsible application of gene technology for food production based on sound scientific research.''
"Other companies selling products containing GM ingredients, such as Gerber baby food, have bothered to contact us and explain their corporate policy on GMOs (genetically modified organisms). But Nestle never did that. We think Nestle owes an explanation to consumers in Thailand,'' said Auaiporn Suthonthanyakorn, a Greenpeace Southeast Asia campaigner.:
Nestle executives in Bangkok have not returned calls for comment.
3. GM food for thought
By DAVID SUZUKI
May 3, 2002
Globe and Mail, May 3, 2002
[geneticist Suzuki responding to industry claims that they were removing their 'educational' GM website because the lack of vistors indicated a lack of interest in the issue]
Vancouver -- Re No Hunger For GM Food Data (May 2):
The headline and article suggest that Canadians aren't interested in genetically modified organisms. My experience is that the public is vitally concerned about the issue.
If someone is concerned about the deleterious effects of smoking, I doubt that they would bother with a tobacco-industry web site and the same is probably true of the biotech industry's site.
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