A previously unreleased set of Food and Drug Administration documents related to genetically engineered (GE or GMO) foods alleges the agency was aware of possible risks to humans as far back as 1991.
The documents were released through a lawsuit filed by Steven Druker, a public interest attorney and executive director of the Alliance for Bio-Integrity (ABI). Druker obtained a reported 44,000 pages of messages, memos, and reports from the FDA. Twenty-four of the most damaging documents are highlighted on ABI’s website and in Druker’s recent book,Altered Genes, Twisted Truth.
Within the documents are several key pieces of information. First, in the FDA’s “Statement of Policy: Foods Derived From New Plant Varieties,” dated May 29, 1992, the agency stated it was “not aware of any information” showing these products differ “in any meaningful way” from other food, despite memos showing researchers did, indeed, still have questions about the safety of GE foods.
One FDA compliance officer wrote that the agency “was trying to fit a square peg into a round hole … [by] trying to force an ultimate conclusion that there is no difference between foods modified by genetic engineering and foods modified by traditional breeding practices.” She then stated that “The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different, and according to technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks.”
In one letter from 1991, the FDA’s biotech coordinator, Dr. James Maryanski, statedthere was not a general consensus in the scientific community that GE foods were safe. This statement contradicts other official proclamations made by the FDA and GE enthusiasts.
At a recent hearing on GMO safety, Susan Mayne, Director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, continued to state that the agency is not aware of any information showing GE foods differ from traditional foods in any meaningful way.
This is not the first time the U.S government has faced scrutiny for policies surrounding GE foods. Earlier this year, Anti-Media reported that the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for failure to adequately respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to GE crops. This marks the fourth time the CFS has sued APHIS to force the release of records.
The newly released FDA documents are particularly important at this moment, as Congress debates the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, or the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, as it is known to critics. The labeling bill would create a federal voluntary standard for GMO labeling and block mandatory labeling efforts by states.
The DARK Act would also effectively nullify GE labeling measures like the bill recently passed in Vermont. The Vermont law is scheduled to go into effect in July of 2016. Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring labeling, but those measures will not be enacted until bordering states also pass legislation.
Regardless, Druker is confident that if Americans had more information on the FDA’s handling of GE research, they would not stand for it.
“If the American people learned how the FDA has been deceiving them, they would be outraged; and the entire DARK Act would almost surely be doomed,” he told the Huffington Post.