Ag Policy Blog

Groups Push for Greater Biotech Oversight

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Anti-biotech groups are calling for a complete overhaul on biotechnology rules, declaring environmental problems and food safety risks demand more federal oversight.

The Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network, Friends of the Earth, Food & Water Watch, the Organic Consumers Association, Green America and Food Democracy Now all called out the need to put together a more comprehensive regulatory regime for biotechnology. They claimed the current process and rules, known as the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology, are broken.

The groups said, "the Framework has failed to prevent numerous economic and environmental harms resulting from GE crops and the pesticides designed to accompany them—and has exposed consumers and growers to unlabeled, untested products."

It's probably an amazing event when all of these groups get together and someone has to order lunch. These groups claim more than 130,000 people signed their petitions and submitted commentary on their behalf. However, the Federal Register notes 902 comments were received on a docket regarding an open meeting on the topic.

Nonetheless, the groups declare they want to see:

Mandatory, GE (genetic engineering) labels

Protections against increased pesticide use

Protections for non-GE farmers

Mandatory safety testing

Mandatory labeling of GE foods

The push comes as the Obama administration is reexamining the current regulations. Back in July, the White House announced a one-year review to update regulations on the biotechnology industry. In a memo to USDA, FDA and EPA, the White House stated that such a review of biotechnology was needed to ensure public confidence in the regulatory system, improve transparency and prevent unnecessary barriers to future innovations.

EPA, FDA and USDA formed a working group to update the framework for biotechnology regulations and further clarify which agency has oversight over particular product areas and rules for approving new products. The departments are expected to examine whether the regulatory system is equipped to fully assess the risks associated with new products with the goals of protecting public health and the environment, as well as supporting private innovation. The working group has a long list of priorities to address to ensure regulations still apply "a risk-based, scientifically sound approach to regulation the products of biotechnology."

George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the Center for Food Safety, called the regulation of GE crops "an unmitigated failure" despite the failure of the Center for Food Safety to point out any food-safety crisis derived from biotech crops. The center still points to the value of a precautionary principle regarding biotechnology in its 42 pages of comments on its website.…

"In sharp contrast with much of the rest of the world, the U.S. has prioritized the rapid commercialization of genetically engineered organisms over core governmental duties, such as protection of public health, the environment and the interests of agriculture. This negligence must end,” Kimbrell said.

Dana Perls, food and technology campaigner with Friends of the Earth, said mandatory safety and environmental assessments are critical before engineered organisms leave the lab and end up on our plates or in the environment. “Broken GMO regulations must be overhauled to put the health of people and the environment ahead of chemical and agribusiness interests. The new regulations must also address rapidly changing genetic engineering techniques, such as synthetic biology, that are entering the market and environment ahead of our ability to ensure their safety,” Perls said.

A link to the full news release from biotech critics can be found at…

In the meantime, the "Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology and Developing a Long-Term Strategy for the Regulation of the Products of Biotechnology," has held one public meeting on Oct. 30. It is unclear if the three federal agencies plan to hold other public hearings. Here is a link to a blog regarding that first public meeting.…

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Curt Zingula
11/17/2015 | 6:29 AM CST
Let's hear from Chipolte about unregulated food sources.