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It's time to regulate and label genetically engineered foods

by Craig Winters
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

(Friday, Nov. 15, 2002 -- CropChoice guest commentary) --We've heard the news that soybeans in Nebraska have been contaminated with genetically engineered pharmaceutical corn. Then, we found out that the same company allowed pharmaceutical biotech corn to pollute corn fields in Iowa.

Since this problem happened in September and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is only telling us about it now, it makes us wonder if other similar problems have happened that the USDA is hiding from the public.

Why did the USDA announce the Iowa problem one day after the news about the Nebraska problem was reported in newspapers all over the United States? If news about the Nebraska contamination had not been discovered by the media, do you think the USDA would be letting us know about the Iowa contamination? I don't think so.

A Washington Post article reported that Cindy Smith, acting head of biotechnology regulation for the USDA, indicated "the department may consider revising its rules to lessen the chance of similar problems in the future."

Well that's just great Cindy. And while you are at it, maybe you folks at the USDA will wake up to the fact that organic corn fields are being polluted by genetically engineered corn on a regular basis.

The bottom line is that if we don't stop all genetically engineered corn from being grown we will soon not have any organic corn that is not contaminated with biotech DNA.

Do we have to wait until biotech drugs are discovered in corn flakes before our government agencies start regulating these risky crops in an appropriate manner?

At the very least the U.S. government should require that these biotech foods are labeled. And labeling is just one important step in effectively regulating genetically engineered crops.

Hopefully these latest reports of contamination will serve as a wake up call to the public, the media and the politicians. Genetically engineered foods pose many dangers to human health and the environment. Without effective regulation, a biotech version of Three Mile Island or Chernobyl is likely to develop in the coming years.