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Consumers Union Issues Warning
on GE Animals

For Immediate Release, August 20, 2002
Contact: Jennifer Shecter, (914) 378-2402, shecje@consumer.org

Consumers Union Says National Academy of Sciences Report Underlines
the Need for Labeling and Safety Tests of Genetically Engineered Animals

YONKERS, NY--Consumers Union (CU) states that a new National
Academy of Sciences (NAS) report to be released tomorrow, "Animal
Biotechnology: Science-Based Concerns," underlines the critical need for
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to establish safety and labeling
regulations immediately in the fast-moving field of genetically engineered animals.

With new technologies, animals may be genetically engineered or cloned to
produce food, industrial or research chemicals or pharmaceutical products.
Insects can also be engineered. The authors of the NAS report were charged
by the FDA to identify the science-based risks and concerns associated with
products of animal biotechnology.

"Consumers Union has consistently urged the government to require labeling,
a comprehensive regulatory framework, and a full safety assessment for the
food supply and the environment before genetically engineered animals are allowed
into the marketplace. The FDA has been saying for several years that it would
develop a policy on how they intend to address genetically engineered animals
and get public input, but thus far the agency has failed to act. The NAS report
underscores the need for immediate action on these fronts," says Michael Hansen,
Ph.D., a researcher with Consumers Union's Consumer Policy Institute.

"The report also describes a number of significant food safety and environmental
problems that could be caused by the genetic engineering of animals. In addition,
it raises the question of 'whether edible products of genetically engineered animals
have been screened adequately,'" Hansen adds.

Hansen highlighted the following problems cited in the NAS report:

" Adverse implications for products of genetically engineered animals. Scientists
have genetically-altered (engineered) experimental cows to produce antibiotics
in their milk to keep them from getting udder infections. The NAS report states
that such milk could alter the balance of bacteria in consumers' intestines, affecting
their digestion, and also foster antibiotic resistance in bacteria.

" Absence of safety assessment data. The report found this to be true of animals
cloned from somatic cells (any cells from the body, except for sperm and eggs).
The report states "There is currently no data to indicate whether abnormalities in
patterns of gene expression persist in adult clones and are associated with food
safety risks, nor is there substantial analytical data comparing the composition of
meat and milk."

" Controversy over labeling for consumers. The report states that "there are reasons,
beyond safety or nutrition, for a consumer to want labeling of food derived from
genetically engineered plants or animals, including religious, ethical, right-to-know,
or simple preference reasons." Consumers Union believes that all genetically
engineered animals and cloned animals going into the food supply, including fish,
poultry, and meat should be labeled and that consumers have a fundamental right
to know what they are eating.

" Confused and divided regulatory responsibility. For example, the report identified
a significant gap in the case of genetically engineered insects, which is covered by no
federal agency. "Genetically engineered insects could pose substantial and difficult-to
assess environmental hazards and present especially difficult containment issues, yet
research and commercial experimentation is proceeding without any regulatory oversight."
Consumers Union has always pushed for a comprehensive regulatory framework.

Consumers Union has been lobbying for labeling and pre-market safety testing of
genetically engineered foods and animals for many years, testifying and submitting
comments to government bodies, both domestically and internationally.

-30-

Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, is an independent
nonprofit testing, educational and information organization serving only the consumer.
We are a comprehensive source of unbiased advice about products and services,
personal finance, health, nutrition and other consumer concerns. Since 1936, our
mission has been to test products, inform the public and protect consumers. JBS 8/20/02.

 

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