andrew schneider investigates

November 18, 2008

House praised FDA then dumps on it.

Filed under: FDA,Government & corporate wrong-doing,Public health legislation — Andrew Schneider @ 15:59

The House congressional oversight and investigations committee praised the Food and Drug Administration today and then ripped it apart saying the agency is finally scrambling to do what lawmakers wanted to save high-ranking jobs before the Bush Administration flees.

Full Committee Chairman Rep. John Dingell and Rep. Bart Stupak today issued a statement gushing over the FDA taking long-awaited actions that would protect Americans from tainted food, drugs and drug ingredients.

But the lawmakers quickly added that the steps were “far from sufficient” and they will “swiftly move legislation to implement badly-needed reforms at FDA.”

It will be fascinating to see if their zeal remains with a member of their own party is sitting in the White House.

Dingell said the committee has found that “FDA not only failed in its basic mission, but refused to admit its failures and take steps to protect Americans from unsafe food and drugs.”

The senior Michigan democrat added: “Now, the policy chieftains at FDA are scrambling to convince the new Administration that they are willing to do what they have failed to do for the past eight years.”

The statement said that during the past three weeks, FDA has taken enforcement actions that Dingell, Stupak have urged over the last two years.

Here is a link to more information of the committee’s concerns.


November 13, 2008

Engineered corn causes reduced fertility

Want something new to worry about?

A study released this week by the Austrian government shows that Monsanto’s genetically engineered corn will reduce fertility � at least in laboratory mice.

The Center for Food Safety said the “important study” funded by the Austrian Ministry of The Health, Families, and Youth “is cause for great concern over the long-term consumption of genetically engineered crops.”

Bill Freese, the science policy analyst for the center said: “It’s no surprise to us that U.S. regulators did not catch this. None of our regulatory agencies require any long-term animal feeding trials before allowing genetically engineered crops on the market.

“The FDA must stop letting biotech companies self-certify their (modified) crops as safe, and instead establish strict, mandatory testing requirements, including long-term animal feeding trials,” he added.

I asked the USDA and FDA whether this is correct, but they haven’t gotten back to me yet.

For 20 weeks, Dr. J�rgen Zentek, veterinary medicine professor at the University of Vienna, and his team fed mice diets consisting of either 33 percent genetically engineered corn or the same amount of corn that wasn’t messed with by Monsanto.

The study found that mice fed the GE corn diet had fewer litters, fewer total offspring, and more females with no offspring, than mice feed the conventional corn.

The scientist attributed the reduced fertility to the engineered corn feed, and said it might be related to unintended effects of the genetic modification process. Zentek said that further studies are “urgently needed” to corroborate his team’s findings.

Monsanto modified the corn to survive direct spraying with its Roundup herbicide, while a built-in insecticide kills certain

“This study should serve as a wake-up call to governments around the world that genetically engineered foods could cause long-term health damage,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of the Center, a nonprofit food-safety advocacy organization,

He added: “The center calls upon national and international authorities to place a moratorium on the distribution of GE products for human consumption unless or until their safety can be undeniably established.”

Here is a link to an English version of the study so you can evaluate for yourself.

This just in from Monsanta:

The St. Louis-based, worldwide supplier of chemicals and engineered seeds, reacted quckly to comments Greenpeace made on the Austrian study.

The chemical giant pointed out that the study was not peer-reviewed and was “inconsistent with over a decade of reputable, peer-reviewed, scientific studies, including multi-generational studies, which demonstrate and confirm the safety of GM crops.”

Jerry Hjelle, a Monsanto VP, said that activist groups for years have attempted to call into question the safety of biotech crops.

“The safety of our products is our utmost priority,” he said. “We are already examining the on-line report along with other evidence assessing the safety of GM corn.”

Huh. Okay.

November 12, 2008

Better food inspections needed

Concerns over food safety appears to be one more thing that Americans want shoved onto President-elect Obama’s overflowing plate to make their government more responsive.

According to a poll by Consumer Reports, the vast majority of citizens want “Country of Origin Labeling” loopholes closed and the Food and Drug Administration to inspect the domestic and foreign food supply every month.

Some of the people rumored to be on Obama’s short list to head the FDA have publicly supported this type of increased surveillance in speeches and articles.

“The American public wants to know more about their food, where it comes from, how safe it is, and will vote with their dollars to support highly meaningful labels,” says Urvashi Rangan, senior scientist and policy analyst at Consumers Union

While 73 percent of those polled by the Consumer Reports National Research Center currently regard the overall food supply as safe, nearly half said their confidence in the safety of the nation’s food supply has decreased, the public interest research group said.

In addition, 83 percent of respondents are concerned with harmful bacteria or chemicals in food and 81 percent are concerned with the safety of imported food.

The great area of concern the pollsters found was the frequency that the government inspects food production facilities.

While USDA inspects meat plants daily, FDA inspects domestic food production facilities once every 5 to 10 years, and foreign facilities even less frequently, Rangan said.

The American public, however, expects the FDA to conduct hands-on reviews of food-processing plants far more often. In fact, two-thirds of respondents said the FDA should inspect domestic and foreign food-processing facilities at least once a month.

Mandatory country-of-origin labeling for meats, fish, produce and peanuts was finally implemented on Sept. 30, but 80 percent say there are large loopholes that consumers want closed.

For example, the group said that meat and poultry sold in butcher shops and fish sold in fish markets — 11 percent of all meat and fish — are currently exempt from country-of-origin labeling.

For more on what consumers cared about, here is a link to the poll results.


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