The center's lawsuit calls for a mandatory, pre-market regulatory review system for all genetically engineered foods. Currently, the CFS pointed out, there are no binding FDA regulations to protect the public from the risks of the genetically engineered foods that are currently found in thousands of products on supermarket shelves.
CFS was joined by more than 50 consumer and environmental groups, including the Union of Concerned Scientists, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Natural Resources Defense Council, and others in a detailed legal petition with FDA in March 2000, outlining the comprehensive approach that the agency should be taking to assess the health and safety issues from new GE foods.
Despite numerous attempts to engage the agency, the CFS said the FDA has refused to respond to this legal petition. FDA first adopted a hands-off policy on GE foods in 1992, and despite mounting evidence of health and environmental threats from GE crops, has never significantly changed its deregulatory stance. The lawsuit filed today challenges FDA's unreasonable delay in failing to respond to the March 2000 petition.
"For too long, the FDA has let biotech companies set the table for deregulation of GE food," said Joseph Mendelson, the center's legal director. "Over six years ago, we challenged the agency to come up with a scientific defense for their lax approach to GE foods. Their failure to respond demonstrates the lack of science behind their GE foods policy."
Numerous countries have adopted mandatory pre-market approval and labeling systems for GE foods, including Russia, China, Brazil, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and all of the European Union. In international forums, FDA and other U.S. officials have endorsed at least three agreements on safety assessments and pre-market review to protect consumers around the world from the risks of GE foods. But FDA's own guidelines for American consumers do not follow these international safety standards.
"While the rest of the world is rejecting these risky, untested foods, FDA's unscientific approach is making American consumers the world's guinea pigs in this genetic food experiment," said Mendelson. "Americans deserve the right to know what's in their food. FDA must stop playing politics and start developing a science-based policy to protect Americans from these risky foods."