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Feds Open Pandora’s Box

Feds Open Pandora’s Box
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Are you concerned that genetic experiments on our food supply might endanger human and planetary health? So are we—and that’s why we must take action to derail the feds’ latest plan. Action Alert!

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  • The government has released a plan setting out how the biotech space will be deregulated to allow more genetically engineered (GE) products to come to market.
  • The focus is on making industry happy, with safety and public health merely a footnote in the government’s plans.
  • We need to make our voices heard to prevent a flood of new frankenfoods and GE soil microbes that threaten human and planetary health.

Are you worried that there aren’t enough GE foods, or that it takes too long to get GE soil microbes approved for application? In short, are you concerned that we haven’t leaned hard enough on biotechnology to address today’s problems? Well, the feds are on the case! The Biden Administration directed the FDA, USDA, and EPA to come together to figure out how to make it easier for industry to bring GE products to market. Recently, these agencies issued a broad outline of a plan to achieve that goal. If you were concerned before about the infiltration of GE products into our food supply and wider environment, we’re about to see far more of this kind of thing in the coming years. We have to make our voices heard now!

The updated “Coordinated Framework for the Advancement of Biotechnology” reads as if it was written by consultants for the biotech industry. Read the text, and it becomes abundantly clear that caution and safety are sidelined in favor of greasing the wheels for industry to fast-track products to market.

To illustrate the point: in the section dedicated to updating the regulatory framework for GE plants, federal agencies say they are addressing concerns such as

“cumbersome and lengthy regulatory processes; the scope of “plant-incorporated protectants” (PIPs); lack of harmonization of approaches to the regulation of genome edited plants and new varieties of previously reviewed plants; lack of alignment of timelines for reviews of products subject to regulation by more than one agency; food crops engineered to produce substances that could cause food safety concerns if they inadvertently enter the general food supply; duplicative regulation of genetically modified plants; and a need for recognition by agencies of each other’s expertise in order to promote predictability, reduce redundancy, and enable synchronous agency decisions (emphasis added).”

This is a theme through the entire document. The concerns they are addressing are almost exclusively those of the biotech industry, removing regulatory hurdles and difficulties so the next Frankenfood or GE soil microbe can get approved. In several sections throughout the document, the federal government commits to creating exemptions for certain unspecified categories of biotechnology products.

The cursory concern with safety exhibited by the government is alarming. The threat to human health and the environment goes far beyond whether we will be exposed to new allergens, as we’ve discussed in our coverage of synthetic biology. GE soil microbes are even more concerning. As we discussed previously, had it not been for a graduate student’s experiment that sounded the alarm, an alcohol-producing GE bacteria could have been released in the field and caused a massive ecological catastrophe. The idea that we need to make it easier for these products to come to market challenges logic.

The FDA has already taken steps to implement the steps outlined in this plan. Simply put, the FDA said it sees no reason to revise its 1992 new plant variety policy that was developed for GMO plants, decades before the arrival of genetic engineering techniques like CRISPR. The FDA believes that foods produced through GE techniques can be “bioequivalent” to traditional foods and regulated the same way, even though the science so far has revealed this to be a pipe dream.

We disrespect the complexity of natural systems when we think that we can tinker with this or that gene, or ferment foods from GMO yeast, or grow cells in a big vat, and achieve what Nature did over eons. To call these foods “bioequivalent” and ready for market without a deeper understanding of what they’re made of and what it means for human health to eat them is utter lunacy—and a recipe for disaster.

Action Alert! Write to Congress and the FDA, telling them that we need more testing of gene-edited foods that research is increasingly finding are not bioequivalent to traditional foods. Please send your message immediately.

One thought on “Feds Open Pandora’s Box

  • Mary Talbette

    Please quit the unconstitutional acts. You surely are not for the American people.
    You are for big corporations and your pockets

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