Report Takes Aim At Biotech Foods
By Todd Leake
Grand Forks Herald, Editorial
August 22, 2004
EMERADO, N.D. - We are eating genetically engineered foods that could do us serious damage in the long run.
A recent report from the National Academy of Sciences revealed gaping holes in the regulation and safety testing of genetically engineered foods. This should give us pause, considering we in the United States have been producing GE crops, such as soybeans, corn and canola, that wind up in many of the foods that we put on the table.
The academy, a science advisory body chartered by Congress, prepared the report for the federal agencies that regulate biotech crops and foods. The report says that those agencies and the Food and Drug Administration are falling behind the times and are not keeping up with advances in science.
It says they are not capable of spotting unplanned, manmade, adverse changes brought about in biotech foods or determining the human health effects of those changes. It concludes that we need more rigorous premarket testing and post-market surveillance.
This is what many other countries in the world have told the United States for years and is why they regulate, restrict or ban the importation of GE crops and foods from the United States.
The FDA's current regulatory process is a voluntary consultation between the biotech company that produced the genetically engineered crop or food and the FDA. Biotech companies voluntarily submit information of their choosing, and the FDA may ask questions about the material.
The FDA does no independent testing or analysis and makes no independent finding. The determination is based on the companies' own findings of safety and nutritional assessment. The FDA has no authority to deny or restrict the release of GE crops.
The report supports the argument that the FDA's process is worth less than a rubber stamp. The process makes no sense. The company makes all the decisions. The FDA cannot request or conduct its own specific scientific studies. In the end, it's just a recording mechanism for the biotech industry's approval of itself.
The FDA's process does not determine safety of GE foods. It does not conduct independent, science-based tests. In fact, in a recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch story, a FDA spokesperson was quoted, "A safety declaration is not something we make" in regard to the review of GM crops.
Nevertheless, the FDA determined that Monsanto corporation's Roundup Ready wheat to be "substantially equivalent" to conventional spring wheat in late July, even though Monsanto shelved Roundup Ready wheat, stating that there was worldwide market resistance to it. Even so, this step toward the commercialization of GE wheat does not go unnoticed and does nothing to promote the reputation or market share of North Dakota spring wheat worldwide. That doesn't do North Dakota's economy any good, either.
Our overseas customers know the FDA's process does not assure safety. They will continue to refuse any GE wheat. North Dakota wheat growers' export markets remain in jeopardy unless the North Dakota Legislature protects our markets and farmers from untimely release of any GE wheat by passing legislation giving North Dakota the power to say if and when GE spring wheat would be grown.
Until this issue is dealt with at the federal level, North Dakota has to stick up for itself because nobody's going to do it for us.
Unfortunately, decision-makers in both Washington and Bismarck have tried to turn this issue on it's head by insisting that if a GE crop has not been proven harmful by FDA it must, therefore, be safe. This is what decision-makers and pro-biotech wheat organizations, supported by biotech dollars, have touted as the buzz phrase "sound science."
When all is said and done, when it comes to science, I'd rather listen to the National Academy of Sciences.
Leake is an Emerado farmer and member of the Dakota Resources Council.