Sunday, December 14, 2008

GMO in the News

Genetically modified crops, also known as genetically engineered or GMO crops, have long been the focus of Hawaii farmers and environmentalists and Native Hawaiian communities. Bills are proposed regularly in the state Legislature regulating or placing a moratorium on GMO crops in the islands. The Hawaii County Council on Nov. 13 overrode Mayor Harry Kim's veto of a bill preventing the genetic modification of taro or coffee anywhere on the Big Island.

Now the U.S. Government Accountability Office has released a report saying the public should have more access to information about genetically modified crops.

Highlights of the report released Dec 5:
  • The unauthorized mixing of some GE crops with non-GE crops has caused controversy and financial harm
  • In 2001, FDA proposed to require that GE food developers notify the agency before marketing their products. However, as of July 2008, FDA had not taken action to finalize the proposed rule, believing its current approach calling for voluntary notice is sufficient.
  • In 2007, USDA analyzed its record of over 700 violations or potential violations that occurred from January 2003 through August 2007 and found 98 that indicated a possible release into the environment. USDA is considering revisions to the regulations to increase transparency and to address advances in technology that may create new products and concerns."
  • GAO recommends that (1) FDA make public the results of its early food safety assessments of GE crops; (2) USDA and FDA develop an agreement to share information on GE crops with traits that, if released into the food or feed supply, could cause health concerns; and (3) USDA, EPA, and FDA develop a risk-based strategy for monitoring the widespread use of marketed GE crops.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has recently published proposed a rule for the "Importation, Interstate Movement and Release into the Environment of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms."

Those interested in learning more about this topic may want to read this Dec. 8 article in Scientific America: "Genetically Modified Hawaii -- New varieties of genetically engineered crops thrive in the world's most isolated landmass," by Robynne Boyd.