Group sues FDA

Hoping to modify the Food and Drug Administration’s handling of genetically altered foods, an independent group filed suit against the federal agency Wednesday.
The Center for Technology Assessment, a national, nonprofit organization, claims genetically manipulated plant foods present unknown health risks to consumers.
The suit also alleges that the FDA policy of not labeling genetically engineered foods violates religious freedom.
The coalition of scientists, religious leaders, health professionals, consumers and chefs challenges the marketing of 33 fruits and vegetables to which they say food producers add genetic material.
University ecology professor Dr. Philip Regal agreed to act as a plaintiff in the case. Regal said his experience as a worldwide consultant on genetic food engineering brought the coalition to him.
While not opposed to the genetic manipulation of plants, Regal said he hopes to see altered foods labeled.
“The FDA is not handling this issue responsibly,” he said. “I don’t want to be a guinea pig.”
Mistakes in biosynthesis can cause the creation of potentially harmful molecules unknown to science, Regal said.
He also said cross-breeding species, such as genes from nuts, to which some people are lethally allergic, into soybeans, can cause untested — and potentially deadly — reactions.
Food producers, who call the “future foods” natural, lend no credence to the group’s claims.
“This came like a bolt out of the blue,” said Gene Grabowski, spokesperson for Grocery Manufacturers of America. “We knew there was opposition, but this is a strange step to sue the FDA. It’s a publicity stunt.”
Grabowski said growers engineer plant food sources to resist insects, a process cutting down on the need for harmful pesticides. He also said farmers cross-breed crops to grow larger and healthier, and to contain more vitamins and nutrients.
Grabowski refutes the group’s claims that plant genetic alterations are not regulated.
“Anything done to foods has to be checked,” he said.
But Regal said unclear regulations do not ease his mind.
“Most of this stuff is done in industrial secrecy,” he said. “It’s like an arms race of American feeding.”