Feds Ladle On-Unfocused Rules For Biotech Foods

Feds Ladle On-Unfocused Rules For Biotech Foods

Broad New Regulations Will Distract from Real Threats
August 02, 2002

Washington, D.C., August 2, 2002 - The Competitive Enterprise Institute today called proposed federal rules for biotechnology-derived crop plants overly broad and aimed at the wrong products. “The policy treats all biotech crops as though they are inherently dangerous, instead of recognizing that most are even safer than their conventional counterparts,” said CEI Director of Food Safety Policy Gregory Conko.

The rules, coordinated by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, are intended to keep potentially harmful proteins from accidentally entering the food chain. Some biotech plants have been engineered to produce industrial enzymes and pharmaceuticals, for example—many of which could be harmful if consumed in large amounts. Others have proteins added that could be allergens or toxins. But the proposed rule change would require extensive regulatory oversight of all new biotech plants before field testing could be started by plant breeders, not just the potentially harmful ones. “This is like performing intricate surgery with a chain saw,” said Conko. “You’ll cut out the few problematic cases, but cause massive disruptions for the safe ones as well.”

Although it has long been recognized by scientists that both conventional plant breeding and biotechnology can introduce potentially harmful genes and proteins into crop plants and foods, U.S. policy acknowledges that only limited oversight of conventional breeding has been necessary to keep dangerous products off the market. But all biotechnology-derived plants are subject to extensive regulatory scrutiny prior to commercialization.

“This proposal won’t require a radical change from the tests that plant breeders already perform,” said Conko. “But it will needlessly add complications, delays, and expenses to the plant development process. More importantly, it will force regulators to spend limited public resources to scrutinize safe biotech products, while distracting them from their duty to oversee potentially dangerous ones.”

CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government.  For more information about CEI, please visit our website at www.cei.org.