The risks of modified foods (21/12/2007)

NOTE: For the original piece by the associate chief counsel at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, that this is responding to see http://www.precaution.org/lib/rpr-html.htm
The risks of modified foods
International Herald Tribune (Letters), December 21 2007

Mark Schwartz's article 'Fear versus Science,' (Views, Dec. 15) gives the impression that only the EU is opposed to genetically modified foods. In reality, numerous official and nongovernmental organizations worldwide are strongly opposed to engineered foods and how they are being introduced into the food chain with little or no supervision.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Schwartz's employer, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Agency are responsible for protecting American citizens from the real and potential harms of engineered foods. Each has failed to carry out its responsibilities - to the benefit of the biotech industries they are supposed to oversee.

The largest producers of such foods, based in the United States, are minimally regulated and not required to demonstrate the safety of their products.

Schwartz puts the onus on the public to produce 'scientific evidence' showing the risk of GM foods.

Space constraints limit the length and depth of this rebuttal, but the Internet contains over 11 pages of links to articles and NGOs pointing out the problems associated with GM technology. Of particular interest is the Union of Concerned Scientists and, for example, one of its scientific papers by Margaret Mellon and Jane Rissler on 'The U.S. approach to the regulation of biotechnology products.'

It may take a while to prove that foods altered for profit are not healthy or sustainable, or it may not. Right now, no one is absolutely certain what the risks are because there is no adequate research by reliable public or private institutions.

John Otranto, Munich
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