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White House science panel proposes earlier safety tests for biotech crops

(Aug. 2, 2002 -- CropChoice news) -- To keep pace with developments in plant biotechnology, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, which advises the White House, posted in the Federal Register yesterday a proposal to "update field testing requirements of biotechnology-derived food and feed crop plants and to establish early food safety assessments for new proteins produced by such plants."

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) president said in a press release that for "consumers, this enhancement adds yet another layer of assurance to the existing regulatory review of agricultural crops."

Some farm, environmental and consumer organizations aren't convinced, though.

Andrew Kimbrell, director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington D.C.-based organization opposed to genetically engineered foods, told The New York Times that the plan was "too little too late. They are recognizing that there is a likely or future problem with contamination of conventional crops with genetically engineered varieties creating potential health risks."

Critics also expressed concern that the proposal doesn't address trials already underway and could allow biotech companies to escape liability if their experimental crops end up in food.

The Office of Science and Technology Policy is taking comments on the proposal, which it says will be shared with the USDA, FDA and EPA, by September 30, 2002. Comments should be e-mailed to comments@ostp.eop.gov or faxed to 202-456-6027.

Sources: Federal Register, The New York Times, Reuters, AgNet