The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s federal regulatory process is stifling commercial investment in the development of genetically engineered animals for food, warns a task force led by a U.C. Davis animal scientist, and that could have serious implications for agriculture and food security in the United States.
Clouding the science issues are anti-science opposition groups that seek to delay or obstruct approval by co-opting regulations and concerns about labeling requirements. The FDA does not require that food labels include information about production methods, such as genetic engineering or organic processes, unless those processes result in a material difference in the product.
“Although humans and animals have been consuming genetically engineered food from plants for years, images of genetically engineered animals open new and often contentious debates about the issue,” said Alison Van Eenennaam, lead author of The Science and Regulation of Food from Genetically Engineered Animals and a UC Davis Cooperative Extension specialist in animal genomics and biotechnology. “Some of the controversy regarding GE animals stems from issues of regulatory oversight of research, development, and post-approval marketing."
In the report, they point out strengths and weaknesses in the U.S. FDA’s regulatory approach. The task force members address:
- thoroughness of the premarket product review process for safety and efficacy;
- potential for withdrawing FDA endorsement after a product has been approved;
- need for public transparency in the review process;
- the FDA’s lack of authority to consider ethics and other social concerns;
- reliance on data produced by the corporation seeking approval; and
- lack of provision for environmental review.
The report, published by the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology, examines a proposal by the private firm AquaBounty to raise and sell genetically engineered salmon as a test case. The “AquaAdvantage” salmon carry a Chinook salmon gene, which enables them to grow to market size in half the time of conventional salmon. Anti-science Democrats and Republicans want to ban the use of federal money for genetically-engineered salmon but the reason does not seem to be health, it seems to be corporate - salmon that grows faster could AquaBounty an 'advantage' organic salmon farming would not have. Members of Congress that just happen to live in the Pacific Northwest care a great deal more about the money from existing fisheries than they do protecting people - or feeding them, since more healthy fish at a lower cost would be better for everyone.
The report, The Science and Regulation of Food from Genetically Engineered Animals, is available free of charge on the council’s website at http://www.cast-science.org.