The Food and Drug Administration has released proposed guidelines for regulating genetically engineered animals, paving the way for them to enter the food supply. This news has stunned many consumer groups. It is estimated that as many as two dozen applications to sell genetically engineered animals are already pending before the FDA.
A long-standing debate in the natural health community has been the introduction of genetically engineered crops into the U.S. food supply. As much as 80% of processed foods contain ingredients from genetically engineered crops (GMOs, or genetically modified organisms). Because the FDA has never produced evidence that these crops are safe when consumed by humans or animals, many concerned practitioners and consumers remain skeptical of GMO-containing foods. Dr. Phil Landrigan at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine has documented that one in seven American children are behavior- or learning-disabled. The increased incidence of autism, allergies, asthma, and learning and behavior disorders among American children has left many researchers, clinicians, and parents concerned that GMO in the food supply may be one of the contributing factors.
The FDA’s proposal included a legal framework for how it would resolve questions such as whether genetically altered animals are safe for human consumption and whether they pose any risk to the environment. Regulators have indicated that the FDA will not require human trials to test the safety of eating genetically altered animals. Given the lack of evidence that GMO-containing products are safe to consume, this news has left many observers speechless, though some groups welcomed the FDA’s willingness to regulate genetically altered animals as “a good first step.”
An important part of this story is that the FDA does not plan to require food producers to notify consumers if their products contain ingredients from genetically engineered animals or their offspring. The lack of labeling continues to trouble many consumers, who let the FDA know their concerns when public hearings were held on genetically engineered crops. AAHF’s stand is that freedom of healthcare choice is strongly linked to consumers’ right to know what they are eating—and to know that these foods have not been tested as safe for human consumption.
Many practitioners of integrative medicine urge parents of children with allergies, asthma, ADHD, and autism to examine the food their children eat. The increased incidence of allergic reactions since genetically engineered grain entered the human food supply has prompted many concerned parents to use more organic foods in their children’s diet.
While genetic engineering is widely used in agriculture to produce crops which are more resistant to disease or which produce higher yields, there have been no long-term studies on humans who consume these products. While it may sound attractive that “this pork is from pigs that are genetically engineered to contain higher levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids,” consumer advocates point out that animals fed a healthy organic diet naturally contain ideal levels of these good fats. Feedlot practices by factory agriculture have skewed the ratio of fats in animals that enter the American food supply—with dangerous health consequences for those who eat a diet rich in animal products.
A policy analyst from a consumer group quoted in a September 19 Wall Street Journal article reported that consumers may be kept in the dark until after a food animal is approved—a practice routinely followed in drug trials. Research from the University of California at San Francisco published in the journal PLoS Medicine found that only 43% of the evidence of safety and efficacy trials used by the FDA to approve drugs is ever published. The article’s authors say this amounts to “scientific misconduct.”
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