Cutting Through the Crop
The Clinton-Gore administration today is unveiling a proposal to tighten the regulation of genetically modified (GM) foods, but the plan falls far short of what consumer and enviro groups say is needed to protect public health and the environment. The proposal would require, among other things, that biotech companies notify the Food and Drug Administration four months before marketing a new GM food and provide the agency with research results about the food’s safety, a process that until now has been voluntary. But it isn’t clear what grounds the FDA might use to reject a GM crop or even the extent of the agency’s legal authority to do so. Biotech critics argue that GM foods should be more thoroughly tested for safety and labeled so consumers know what they are buying. Several surveys show that the majority of U.S. consumers want such labeling, but the big food companies have fought it believing it would frighten consumers away.