Officials: Genetically Modified Foods OK

By Stacey Zolt
August 11, 2000 The Chicago Sun-Times

WASHINGTON--Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman said he's confident that genetically engineered ingredients for foods are safe, but wants to find a way to boost public confidence in federal regulation of these products.

However, neither Glickman nor the Food and Drug Administration will force companies to adhere to testing standards or labeling of their genetically modified products.

By the end of 2000, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will establish certification standards for labs whose companies voluntarily agree to label their foods with genetically engineered ingredients, but will not ask the FDA to force mandatory labeling.

Glickman said Thursday his department has taken the lead in government in regulating genetically modified ingredients, and is confident they are not harmful.

"I've said in the past I believe these foods were safe and they were beneficial," Glickman said.

Next month, the Agriculture Department will begin asking for input on what types of validation tests should be developed, and the agency already has begun placing ads in business publications selling the yet-to-be-developed certification process for labs.

But the department's involvement with the issue is limited to genetically engineered grains and seeds. The FDA and the Environmental Protection Agency take it from there, and so far all three are in accordance on the voluntary regulation and labeling standards.

"There is not, as of yet, a safety issue," said Agriculture spokesman Andrew Solomon. Until it is a matter of safety, there will be no mandated regulations.

Meanwhile, the Center for Food Safety is waiting for a ruling in its case for safety testing, environmental review and labeling of genetically modified foods.

The case, Alliance for Bio Integrity vs. Shalala, has been awaiting judgment for a year.

Scripps Howard News Service

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