Thoughts on Genetically Engineered Animals?


The following is a press release from CAST:

Although humans and animals have been consuming genetically engineered (GE) food from plants for years, images of GE animals open new and often contentious debates about the issue. Led by Dr. Alison Van Eenennaam, University of California-Davis, a task force of experts examines current regulations, criticisms of the process, and implications for the future. The centerpiece of this new paper from the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology is a case study of the AquAdvantage salmon proposal, but the findings here have far-reaching implications.  After looking at various sides of the issue, the authors conclude with a clear statement:  “The current regulatory approach, coupled with the prolonged and unpredictable time frame, has resulted in an inhibitory effect on commercial investment in the development of GE animals for agricultural applications with ramifications for U.S. agriculture and food security.”

According to Dr. Van Eenennaam, “Some of the controversy regarding GE animals stems from issues of regulatory oversight of research, development, and postapproval marketing.”  This paper first explains the following:

· A brief history of the regulations

· A look at who regulates and how

· Details regarding the evaluation of possible risks (health and environment)

· Coordination with other agencies and oversight of the regulations

Various stakeholders point out strengths and weaknesses in the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulatory approach, and the authors of this Commentary carefully examine these points:

· Premarket review of product safety and efficacy is thorough

· The product is monitored and approval can be withdrawn

· The process is not necessarily publicly transparent

· The FDA lacks authority to consider social concerns (ethics)

· Data required for review are produced by the corporation seeking approval

· There are no provisions dealing specifically with environmental risk

Two more general issues cloud the process. Proponents of the technology fear that special interest groups slow down or obstruct approval by co-opting the regulations. Others wonder about labeling requirements.  At this time, the FDA cannot require that labels include information about production methods if there is no material difference in the products due solely to the production process. The authors highlight the 15-year-long AquAdvantage case and point out various implications for the future of regulation and genetically modified technology. They mention risks and environmental tradeoffs as well as the social and economic effects. They also emphasize that the competitiveness of the United States could be affected with negative results regarding food security and other issues.

“This important, timely paper will be of interest to policymakers, agricultural producers, and the public,” says Dr. John Bonner, CAST Executive Vice President/CEO.  The full text of The Science and Regulation of Food from Genetically Engineered Animals (Commentary QTA2011-2) may be accessed free of charge on the CAST website at, along with many of CAST’s other scientific publications. CAST is an international consortium of scientific and professional societies, companies, and nonprofit organizations.  It assembles, interprets, and communicates credible, science-based information regionally, nationally, and internationally to legislators, regulators, policymakers, the media, the private sector, and the public.

Source:  CAST

Posted by Haylie Shipp


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