"...Government officials around the globe have been coerced, infiltrated, and paid off by the agricultural biotech giants. In Indonesia, Monsanto gave bribes and questionable payments to at least 140 officials, attempting to get their genetically modified (GM) cotton approved. In India, one official tampered with the report on Bt cotton to increase the yield figures to favor Monsanto. In Mexico, a senior government official allegedly threatened a University of California professor, implying “We know where your children go to school,” trying to get him not to publish incriminating evidence that would delay GM approvals. While most industry manipulation and political collusion is more subtle, none was more significant than that found at the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Genetically modified crops are the result of a technology developed in the 1970s that allow genes from one species to be forced into the DNA of unrelated species. The inserted genes produce proteins that confer traits in the new plant, such as herbicide tolerance or pesticide production. The process of creating the GM crop can produce all sorts of side effects, and the plants contain proteins that have never before been in the food supply. In the US, new types of food substances are normally classified as food additives, which must undergo extensive testing, including long-term animal feeding studies. If approved, the label of food products containing the additive must list it as an ingredient.
There is an exception, however, for substances that are deemed “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). GRAS status allows a product to be commercialized without any additional testing. According to US law, to be considered GRAS the substance must be the subject of a substantial amount of peer-reviewed published studies (or equivalent) and there must be overwhelming consensus among the scientific community that the product is safe. GM foods had neither. Nonetheless, in a precedent-setting move that some experts contend was illegal, in 1992 the FDA declared that GM crops are GRAS as long as their producers say they are. Thus, the FDA does not require any safety evaluations or labels whatsoever. A company can even introduce a GM food to the market without telling the agency.
Such a lenient approach to GM crops was largely the result of Monsanto’s legendary influence over the US government. According to the New York Times, “What Monsanto wished for from Washington, Monsanto and, by extension, the biotechnology industry got. . . . When the company abruptly decided that it needed to throw off the regulations and speed its foods to market, the White House quickly ushered through an unusually generous policy of self-policing.” According to Dr. Henry Miller, who had a leading role in biotechnology issues at the FDA from 1979 to 1994, “In this area, the U.S. government agencies have done exactly what big agribusiness has asked them to do and told them to do.”
Following Monsanto’s lead, in 1992 the Council on Competitiveness chaired by Vice President Dan Quayle identified GM crops as an industry that could increase US exports. On May 26, Quayle announced “reforms” to “speed up and simplify the process of bringing” GM products to market without “being hampered by unnecessary regulation.” Three days later, the FDA policy on non-regulation was unveiled..." Read full article>>