Eat To Live: FDA sued over biotech foods (15/6/2006)

Eat To Live: FDA sued over biotech foods
By Julia Watson
United Press International, June 9, 2006

LE BUGUE, France (UPI) -- It`s been a conversational curiosity, at the very least, among consumers in Europe, Australia, Japan, and parts of Africa, why Americans don`t seem the slightest bit interested in the issue of the genetic engineering of some of their key crops. The nations just mentioned have as little tolerance for biotech foods as legally possible.

Now, however, American consumers may have to reflect upon their complacency.

This week, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration to force the government to establish mandatory reviews of genetically engineered foods and to label them as genetically modified if the foods are approved for consumption.

The dramatic action comes after six years of waiting without a response from the FDA to a legal petition it lodged, along with over 50 consumer and environmental groups, demanding that biotech food be more meticulously regulated and labeled.

Why would the FDA -- so anxious to protect our health with advisories on food fears from mercury in fish to the pasteurization of young raw milk cheeses -- not want to take a rigorous look on our behalf at industrial science's inalterable tampering with nature?

Even the U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General has been appalled by the USDA's handling of field tests of genetically engineered plantings.

As Eat To Live revealed earlier this year, the inspector general's report condemned the USDA for failing to inspect experimental genetically engineered crops and for not insuring they were destroyed after field tests, to protect surrounding farmland.

The prime genetically modified crops grown extensively across the U.S. are corn, soybeans and canola. Europe, pushed by massive consumer unease, has made every effort to resist the entry of genetically engineered crops into its markets. Foods that contain them must be so labeled.

Yet Europe has been under intense pressure by the United States through the World Trade Organization to reverse this stand and allow U.S. biotech crops and products in.

Even the United Nations Cartagena Protocol of Biosafety authorizes member countries, in the case of scientific uncertainty, to take a precautionary approach to regulating biotech crops.

In the United States, no GM labeling is necessary, nor is testing of foods containing biotech crops or by-products compulsory.

European consumers -- and many in the science community -- fear that the restructuring of the genetic composition of a crop by introducing foreign genes -- from other species of plant or even animals -- could have an impact on health. They fear so-called 'Frankenfoods' might encourage antibiotic-resistant illnesses, produce new food toxins and generate food allergies.

Farmers are attracted by the higher yields and lower investment in pesticides and time that genetically engineered crops offer. Their creators, like Monsanto, promote the philanthropic message that they could be the instrument for the reduction of world hunger and poverty. They assert that rather than abuse the environment, genetically modified crops make it safer.

Critics of biotech crops and food say that none of these contentions have been properly tested nor have ecological, health and social questions been stringently addressed.

Let's hope there`s enough publicity for the CFS's lawsuit to alert American consumers finally to an issue that has been the concern of much of the rest of the world.

This barbecuing season, when timing everything to be on the table as soon as the burgers come off the grill is tricky, you may like this tip from legendary New York Times food writer Craig Claiborne.

He contended that the best way to cook (genetically unmodified) sweet corn was to bring to the boil a pot of unsalted water, drop in the shucked corn, slam the lid on, bring it back to the boil then immediately turn off the heat under the pot. Leave the corn in for a minimum of 5 minutes -- and a relaxed maximum of 45. It`s a method that saves corn that isn`t at peak of freshness. Salting the water toughens it.

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Copyright 2006 by United Press International

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