FDA Seeks Comments on Genome Editing, a Dangerously Untested (and Totally Unlabeled) New Type of GMO

-by Nick Meyer 

The genetically engineered food experimented has come to a screeching halt across much of the world, as nearly 40 countries now ban GMO foods.

Meanwhile in the United States, however, which has been ground zero for Monsanto’s GMO experiment, the beat goes on: new “gene-edited” foods are set to make their debuts, including a recent limited GMO apple release, GMO potatoes and many more.

To make matters worse, these foods will not be labeled as being GMO or gene-edited, in large part because of the tens of millions of dollars Monsanto and others have spent to prevent mandatory labeling, a right affored to citizens in 60+ countries.

Now, the FDA is giving citizens a chance to give their thoughts on the new gene-edited food experiment, in an announcement that was quietly made on their website recently.

Comment Period Open for Genome Editing in Foods

Genome editing is said to be the next generation of genetically engineered foods, and it may be even more problematic and dangerous than traditional GM foods, in large part because of the accessability of the technology.

Scientist Kevin Esvelt of MIT called the technology so simple and easy to use that a teenager can do it in his or her garage, and already small companies have been cashing in on unwanted and unlabeled GMO food technology, including the makers of the new GMO apple.

Many independent companies are now tinkering with our food, perhaps more than ever. Combined with lax (most would say virtually non-existent) safety regulations and a complete lack of independent, long-term safety testing, the potential for misuse and long-term harm is off-the-charts.

From the FDA’s website:

Genome editing” is a term used to describe a relatively new set of technologies that enable one to make precise changes in the DNA of a plant, animal or other living organism. For example, such technologies can be used to introduce, remove, or substitute one or more specific nucleotides at a specific site in the organism’s genome. Genome editing is being performed using, for example, clustered regulatory interspersed short palindromic repeat associated nucleases (CRISPR), zinc-finger nucleases (ZFNs), transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs), and oligonucleotide-directed mutagenesis (ODM).

Despite the FDA’s contention that genome editing is “precise,” the long-term health effects of such technologies are unknown.

Because gene-edited foods aren’t labeled, consumers may end up unknowingly consuming them in large quantities, and in some cases the technology produces controversial “franken” traits such as the new GMO apple that doesn’t turn brown.

The new GMOs are unwanted by consumers, but highly profitable for companies that are tinkering with the technology. Canada-based Okanagan Specialty Fruits for example got a $41 million payout immediately after creating its GMO apple and was sold to another company.

The gene-editing techniques can sometimes be done by “silencing” genes using RNA interference, a controversial technique that critics argue could have potential health consequences that may be serious down the line.

The new Simplot GMO potatoes use this technique to silence four genes. Critics contend that these new techniques have not been adequately tested for safety and that human genes may potentially be silenced as well (but studies still have not been done to determine whether this is possible).

Ultimately, the case against gene editing is simple: there is a lack of safety testing, a lack of labeling, and a lack of regulation for what may end up unleashing the biggest amount of changes to our food supply in history.

And with so many companies messing with our food in the name of profit (and solving “problems” that conventional hybridization and plant breeding can already address), the new gene editing techniques could lead to serious health consequences for U.S. consumers down the line.

If you’d like to comment on the genome editing techniques, you can leave a comment for the FDA by clicking on this link. The FDA is seeking public input to help inform its regulatory approach to human and even animal foods derived from plants produced using genome editing:

The RFC (Request for Comments) asks for data and information in response to questions about the safety of foods from genome edited plants, such as whether categories of genome edited plants present food safety risks different from other plants produced through traditional plant breeding.

Additionally, the agency is asking for information on how best to engage small businesses, including those that may be considering using genome editing to produce new plant varieties for use in human or animal food.

FDA will be accepting comments for 90 days starting on January 19, 2017. Comments should be received by April 19, 2017 to ensure they are taken into consideration. Comments received will help inform FDA’s thinking on human and animal foods derived from new plant varieties produced using genome editing.

At March Against Monsanto, we stand against this unnecessary and untested technology and call on the FDA and USDA to allocate more funding for natural and organic foods, rather than allowing thousands of unregulated companies to “play God” with our food supply.

Here’s how you can comment; the FDA doesn’t exactly make it easy on us:

To comment on the RFC, go to Regulations.gov and insert docket number FDA-2016-N-4389. To submit comments to the docket by mail, use the following address. Be sure to include docket number FDA-2016-N-4389 on each page of your written comments.


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