The Aug. 15 front-page story "Biotech Food Raises a Crop of Questions" suggests that the U.S. regulatory framework for reviewing introduction of genetically modified crops and foods is inadequate. Yet it also shows how the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), one of three agencies that monitor crop and food safety, performed its task as expected in flagging a proposed biotech soybean seed whose modification created a potential for allergic reactions.
U.S. biotech crops and foods have been the most scrutinized agricultural products in history. In addition to the FDA, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency monitor them.
Food companies go through extensive testing requirements before meeting with the FDA to discuss a new product. They present the data, and in turn the FDA declares whether more testing is needed. The company knows it is liable if it violates the FDA's regulations, and it typically will conduct many as opposed to too few studies.
The FDA has a clear and strict policy on labeling, requiring labels to inform consumers of potential health threats such as allergic reactions or changes in food composition.
To imply that the application of biotechnology to plant modification has introduced some sinister practice into agriculture is science fiction. The article, for example, states that biotech crops are being endowed with "bacterial and viral genes." Biotechnology merely is using recombinant DNA techniques to insert one or a few genes that manifest a desired trait.
The article's numerous implications ignore the enormous benefits of biotechnology's innovative approach for making farming more efficient and productive and foods healthier.
For example, a first-ever analysis of the impact of biotech pest-control crops showed that they increased production, reduced use of chemical pesticides and boosted farmers' profits.
CARL B. FELDBAUM
Biotechnology Industry Organization