Washington, D.C. - The Consumer Federation of America said Thursday the U.S. government "has basically abandoned its responsibility" to ensure the safety of genetically modified food.
The current system "assumes no human greed and no human error" and thus "holds great peril for the public and does no good to the (biotechnology) industry," said Carol Tucker Foreman, who heads the federation's Food Policy Institute.
The federation released a 250-page report financed by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. It calls for an end to a policy under which most genetically modified foods can be declared "substantially equivalent" to existing nonbiotech foods.
This policy, the report says, allows biotech products to largely avoid a formal safety determination.
Foreman and the report's author, University of Texas law professor Thomas McGarity, emphasized that biotech foods hold great promise to increase the supply and nutritional content of the world's food supply.
But "rigorous and credible regulation is necessary," Foreman said. "Government and industry have deprived genetically modified foods of an important asset - public confidence."
Washington, D.C. - StarLink corn's contamination of the human food supply could be just the beginning of the furor over biotechnically altered food.
StarLink was a biotech variety developed by Aventis CropScience but approved only for use in animal feed.
"StarLink is not an isolated incident," said University of Texas law professor Thomas McGarity, an expert on environmental law. He called the StarLink incident evidence of "an elaborate and complicated regulatory charade . . . posing as science."
McGarity wrote a report for the Consumer Federation of America that accuses the U.S. government of abandoning its responsibility for monitoring genetically modified food.
The report was released Thursday and recommended:
Dry said the industry supports new rules - expected to be issued next week by the Food and Drug Administration - that would require companies to consult with regulators on their testing and marketing plans. The FDA rules would allow voluntary labeling of biotech food products.
The Consumer Federation report emphasizes that biotech crops can provide disease, drought and pesticide resistance, improved nutritional content and enhanced medicinal qualities.
The group also said the foods might produce allergic reactions and toxic proteins that can harm human health. Biotech varieties might speed the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria, turn ordinary crops into "superweeds" difficult to control, threaten biodiversity and reduce populations of beneficial insects and other organisms, the report says.
It emphasizes that U.S. food companies already are prepared to label their biotech food products for markets in Europe and elsewhere and should be required to do the same here.
The Consumer Federation is a private organization that lobbies on consumer issues, advocating for strong competition in various industries and for healthy food practices.
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Last Updated on 1/31/01