Clinton Administration Biotechnology Proposal

By George Grow

This is Bill White with the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

President Clinton's administration has announced a plan to increase government supervision of foods made with genetic engineering. The biotechnology industry and food industry groups welcomed the proposal. However, other groups say they want the government to do more.

The Clinton administration proposal would create a process for testing and selling all biotechnology food products. The administration says it wants to increase public trust in the safety of genetically-engineered crops. Genetic engineering is the technology of changing the genes of living things.

Several of the reforms would involve the government's main food safety agency, the Food and Drug Administration. Under the new rules, biotechnology companies would be required to inform FDA officials at least four months before selling a genetically-engineered product.

The companies also would have to provide more information about the testing of such products to help FDA scientists decide if the foods are safe.

All information provided by companies and the results of tests on the products would be made public. The Food and Drug Administration would include the information and test results on its Internet Web site.

FDA officials say the agency also is developing rules to permit food companies to identify products made with genetic engineering. The proposed rules would advise companies to list this information on their products. These labels would not be required, however.

Major biotechnology and food industry groups welcomed the FDA proposal. They say it is one way to reduce public concern about possible harmful effects of genetically-engineered foods on human health and the environment.

Opponents of biotechnology are more critical of the proposal. Jane Rissler of the Union of Concerned Scientists says the Clinton administration is not doing enough to improve food safety. Mizz Rissler says Americans want the government to set rules for food safety testing. She says people also want warning labels on all products made with genetic engineering.

FDA officials say scientific studies continue to show that all genetically-engineered foods sold in the United States are as safe to produce and eat as other foods.

This AGRICULTURE REPORT was written by George Grow. This is Bill White.

Voice of America Special English