FDA Critics Cite Biotech Food Safety

[Sidebar: Biotech Food Safety Research]
By Robert Mullins, Newsdesk.org
Stymied by legal setbacks and a lack of public interest, critics of genetically engineered foods expressed impatience with the federal Food and Drug Administration for putting its regulatory foot down on pharmaceuticals such as Vioxx and Bextra, but keeping its hands off biotechnology. While the FDA must approve pharmaceuticals before they are sold, and regulates them once they hit the market, it requires only voluntary consultations with food and biotech corporations about the safety of any genetically engineered foods they want to sell. James Maryanski, biotechnology coordinator for the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition, said that this is consistent with the agency’s mandate. Medicines are newly created products combining different chemicals and other ingredients to treat diseases, and so must be pre-tested for possible side effects, he said, while genetically engineered food crops are still just plants, and therefore “generally recognized as safe.” “[T]he foods we eat today are all derived from crops we’ve had for centuries,” Mr. Maryanski said.

FOCUS: Overfishing — Local to Global

Jodi Wynn & Newsdesk.org staff
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, overfishing is leading to a humanitarian and ecological crisis. The report finds that over 70 percent of fish species are being caught at a rate faster than they reproduce, leading to the near-depletion of many commercial fish stocks. In the U.S., the National Marine Fisheries Service reported that 92 percent of domestic fish stocks are overexploited, but can recover if well managed. With more than 200 million people worldwide depending on fishing for a living, and 2.5 billion relying on fish for food, the U.N. said that declining fish stocks will affect “food security and economic development” as well as social welfare and underwater ecosystems.
The FAO also predicts that within ten years fish stocks will be further depleted by growing human populations. The New Zealand fisheries minister expressed fears that post-tsunami relief efforts could “create the conditions for overfishing and resource depletion, particularly where these problems were already occurring.”