Do We Really Want a Future of Synthetic Foods?

Many in Congress do, according to a letter nearly 80 representatives just sent to the FDA, USDA, and EPA. Action Alert!
The letter, presumably inspired by big corporate donors, calls for the agencies to provide a “consistent, appropriate” approach to the regulation of biotechnology. On the one hand, the FDA has proposed to regulate any animal intentionally altered using gene editing techniques as an animal drug; on the other hand, the USDA has recently proposed to make it easier to bring “low-risk” genetically engineered plants to market.
The letter urges the agencies to adopt frameworks that “foster innovation” and to “remove any unnecessary burdens that would inhibit the use of these innovative solutions.” Translation: kowtow to the biotech industry and green-light their synthetically produced products or Congress will cut your budget.
Following the Congressional letter, the USDA withdrew its proposed regulations. The agency’s decision was influenced by commenters, likely from the biotech industry, who argued that even the relaxed approach outlined in the proposed regulation would hamper innovation.
As we’ve written before, we are in the Wild West of gene editing. Scientists are experimenting with editing the genome of human embryos; gene-silencing sprays are in development that can change the color of flowers; do-it-yourself CRISPR kits are being sold for less than $200. These technologies need to be studied carefully and controlled appropriately, not rubber-stamped.
Action Alert! Write to Congress and tell them that you want gene editing techniques to be carefully scrutinized to protect consumers. Please send your message immediately.

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