Groups press feds to overhaul GMO regulations

Environment and food safety groups are pushing the Obama administration to overhaul the nation’s regulations for genetically engineered (GE) plants and animals.

The Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network and Water Watch said Monday it had sent comments to President Obama and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) asking for mandatory, GE-specific regulation; protections from increased pesticide use; protections for non-GE farmers; mandatory safety testing; and mandatory labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The groups said over 130,000 comments have been submitted to the agency from individuals and farm groups calling for reform.

The groups are asking the administration to rework the existing guidelines, known as the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology, that were created in 1986 before GE crops were commercialized. They claim the framework, as it stands, fails to protect consumers and the environment from the harmful effects of the pesticides used on GE crops.

“In sharp contrast with much of the rest of the world, the U.S. has prioritized the rapid commercialization of genetically engineered organisms over core governmental duties, such as protection of public health, the environment and the interests of agriculture,” George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety, said in a news release. “This negligence must end.”

The comments are in response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, which announced in July that it planned to overhaul the regulations. The groups are now calling for commonsense reforms that include safety-testing, food labels and restrictions on how and where GMO crops may be grown.

“The Coordinated Framework is not equipped to handle the risks associated with GE foods already on the market, let alone what’s coming down the pike,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said in a statement.