Tag Archives GMO

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which will hold hearings on genetically modified (GM) crops during the first week of March 2009, has reportedly received a statement submitted anonymously by 26 corn-insect specialists who apparently contend that biotechnology companies are preventing them from fully researching the effectiveness and environmental impact of the industry’s GM crops. To conduct their research, the scientists must evidently seek permission from the GM seed companies because the buyers of these products are often restricted by agreements requiring them to honor patent rights and environmental regulations. The researchers reportedly claim that the companies sometimes deny permission or insist on reviewing findings before they can be published. “No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions,” according to the statement. The scientists also apparently claim that the industry’s control of GM research means they are unable to provide farmers with some information about how to…

The European Commission’s (EC’s) Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health reportedly deadlocked on February 16, 2009, over whether France and Greece should be forced to lift their bans on a genetically modified (GM) corn seed that is the only one approved for planting in the European Union. According to a biotechnology industry spokesperson, the increase in votes favoring the cultivation of GM crops signals a new momentum in Europe to open markets to these controversial crops. EU environmentalists and consumers have long opposed their introduction, citing environmental risks and the unwelcome intrusion of large corporate interests into agriculture. A larger vote next week may, say biotech industry executives, lead to the approval of two additional GM corn seeds for marketing in the EU. Mike Hall, a spokesperson for the developer of one of them, has reportedly indicated that the company is waiting to see if the EU…

The FDA has issued its final guidance on regulating genetically engineered (GE) animals under the new animal drug provisions of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. The guidance clarifies FDA’s regulatory authority “and provides recommendations to producers of GE animals to help them meet their obligations and responsibilities under the law.” It is intended to apply to GE animals with heritable rDNA constructs. According to the guidance, GE animals are being developed for a number of purposes, including the enhancement of production or food quality traits, improvements to animal health, the production of products for human therapeutic uses, and enhancement of animals’ interactions with humans (e.g., hypoallergenic pets). The FDA explains when GE animal producers must comply with labeling and record-keeping requirements or submit information for agency approval.

Roll International Corp. Senior Counsel and former Agricultural Law Professor at the University of Arkansas School of Law, Michael Roberts discusses how disputes over the use of synthetic hormones in animal husbandry and food produced from genetically modified organisms are handled from the perspective of international trade law and international agreements addressing health, safety and environmental issues. Thus, he sets the stage to speculate how international disputes over cloned animals and nanotechnologies used in the human food chain may be addressed in the future. Among the legal issues the author sees arising from cloning and nanotechnology are (i) what international institutions and instruments will regulate these emerging technologies; (ii) whether religious, scientific, moral, and ethical concerns implicated in these technologies will change the international regulations pertaining to food safety and labeling, (iii) what role private standard-setting will take in the international regulation of cloning and nanotechnology, and (iv) how private…

The GAO, which serves as the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress, has released a report that analyzes federal oversight of genetically engineered (GE) crops and recommends steps the agencies could take to better address the unauthorized release of these crops into food, animal feed or the environment. Titled Genetically Engineered Crops: Agencies Are Proposing Changes to Improve Oversight but Could Take Additional Steps to Enhance Coordination and Monitoring, the 109-page report discusses the roles that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) play in regulating GE crops. It also notes how six unauthorized releases of GE crops in recent years may not have adversely affected human or animal health, but did result in lost trade opportunities. The GAO’s assessment was undertaken at the request of Senators Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Saxby Chambliss (R-Georgia), the chair and ranking member respectively of the Committee on…

A study commissioned by the Austrian Ministries for Agriculture and Health has reportedly linked genetically modified crops to lower fertility rates in mice, prompting Greenpeace International to reiterate its call for a global ban. Led by University of Vienna Professor of Veterinary Medicine Jurgen Zentek, researchers concluded that compared to mice on a normal feed mix, those fed a diet of 33 percent GM corn produced third and fourth litters with fewer offspring of lower birth weights. The team described the results as “statistically significant,” adding that more females in the GM-diet group “remained without litters than in the control group.” In response to the finding, one Greenpeace scientist told the Daily Mail that GM food “appears to be acting as a birth-control agent, potentially leading to infertility. If this is not reason enough to close down the whole biotech industry once and for all, I am not sure what…

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has issued a correction to a proposed rule regarding the “importation, interstate movement and release into the environment of certain genetically engineered [GE] organisms.” Where the October 9, 2008, notice indicated that the rule would preempt “no State or local laws or regulations,” the correction substitutes “All State and local laws or regulations that are inconsistent with this rule will be preempted.” Comments on the entire proposal must be submitted on or before November 24, 2008. The original proposal represents the “first comprehensive review and revision of the regulations since they were established in 1987,” bringing the rules “into alignment with provisions of the Plant Protection Act” and updating the rules “in response to advances in genetic science and technology.” Among the changes proposed are provisions to revise the rules’ scope “to make it clear that decisions regarding which organisms are regulated…

The Office of U.S. Trade Representative has issued a request for comments about potential alternative products imported from the European Union (EU) that are under consideration for the imposition of increased duties. The action arises from an ongoing dispute with the EU over its refusal to allow imports of U.S. meat and meat products produced from animals treated with artificial growth hormones. According to the U.S. Trade Representative, “The [World Trade Organization] found over 10 years ago that the EU’s ban on U.S. beef was not supported by science and was thus inconsistent with WTO rules. When the EU failed to bring its measures into compliance with its WTO obligations, the United States imposed tariffs on certain imports from the EU, as authorized by the WTO. Since that time, we have been trying to resolve this dispute with the EU without changing the composition of tariffs. It is now time…

The Soil Association, a British environmental group dedicated to sustainable, organic farming, has released a report, titled “Land of the GM-Free? How the American public are starting to turn against GM food,” that contends American consumers, farmers and politicians are losing their enthusiasm for genetically modified (GM) crops. Thus, “it is not surprising that the GM industry has scaled up its efforts to find a new market in the EU.” The report specifically addresses how “genetically engineered bovine growth hormone” and GM crops such as rice, wheat and alfalfa are facing opposition from consumers and others in the United States in the form of lawsuits and regulatory pressures. According to the report, “The Irish Republic, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are all committed to GM-free policies. This has left just the present English government ministers on an increasingly lonely and desperate pro-GM quest, as consumers in their main pro-GM ally,…

A Swiss study of factors that consumers consider when deciding whether to accept or reject innovative food technologies suggests that nanotechnology would be more acceptable than genetic modification (GM). Michael Siegrist, “Factors Influencing Public Acceptance of Innovative Food Technologies and Products,” Trends in Food Science and Technology (forthcoming 2008). Reviewing the literature on the subject, researcher Michael Siegrist found that the processes used to make food are significant considerations for modern consumers. For example, chemical changes involving the addition of an ingredient are viewed as reducing a product’s naturalness, an “all-important” factor, while physical processes, such as grinding, are not. Thus, Siegrist reportedly concludes, “This reasoning suggests that consumers may be more willing to accept nanotechnology food than GM food. Since the former most likely will not be perceived as tampering with nature, few people will have a moral impetus to oppose this technology now.” While trust in the food industry…

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