USDA's New Biotechnology Regulations Could Allow Drugs in Food, Science Group Says

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Meghan Crosby, 202-331-6943

Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)

USDA's New Biotechnology Regulations Could Allow Drugs in Food, Science Group Says

Statement by Jane Rissler, Union of Concerned Scientists

WASHINGTON - The
Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) today denounced newly proposed U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) rules governing genetically engineered
crops, including food crops engineered to produce pharmaceutical and
industrial products. The proposed rules, UCS charged, would not protect
the U.S.
food supply from potential contamination by drugs from "pharma" crops
and could allow drugs that it deems "safe" to enter the food supply.
This contamination could occur through cross-pollination or seed mixing
between pharma food crops and crops intended for consumption.

The
USDA ignored recommendations for a ban on the outdoor production of
pharma food crops from the Grocery Manufacturers Association, major
food companies, UCS, and more than 100 environmental, agricultural,
health, and consumer organizations. 

Below is a statement by Jane Rissler, UCS's Food and Environment Program deputy director:

"Under the proposed rules, USDA's new motto is 'Only safe levels of drugs in U.S. food.' If  these
proposals are enacted into law, American consumers must accept the
possibility of drugs in their breakfast cereal or other common foods.
Moreover, these rules likely will lead to contamination scares, which
will hurt the food industry.

"The
USDA proposal, unlike the ban we recommended, offers no incentives to
drug companies to pursue already existing, safer methods for producing
drugs.

"In
its rush to enact the proposed rules into law before the end of the
Bush administration, the USDA has given short shrift to public
participation. The department is allowing only 45 days for the public
to analyze and comment on this major proposal, which will determine the
government's approach to regulating genetically engineered organisms
for years to come.

"The
proposed rules also overhaul the existing regulatory system for
genetically engineered crops other than pharma crops. Some of the
proposed changes represent steps in the right direction such as making
the regulatory program more coherent and comprehensive, expanding the
scope of genetically engineered organisms subject to government
oversight, and allowing the department to consider impacts on public
health."

For UCS's Web feature profiling innovative biotechnology companies that are developing drugs more safely, go to http://ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/solutions/sensible_pharma_crops/sensible-pharma/.

For the location of pharma crops that have been grown outdoors across the country, go to http://go.ucsusa.org/food_and_environment/pharm/index.php?s_keyword=XX.

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