The FDA is taking steps to limit transparency and remove independent review of genetically engineered animals by disbanding its Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee. The committee, composed of academics who peer review FDA’s risk analysis of GMO animals, met in 2010 when FDA initiated the approval process for the world’s first biotech food animal, GMO salmon. The agency has still not approved GMO salmon, probably in part because of how critical its invited scientists were. Though members had different opinions, a clear chorus emerged on several specific safety questions, including telling the FDA there was not sufficient science to demonstrate animal safety.
FDA is now disbanding that entire review process, claiming it was too costly to maintain. Food & Water Watch filed a records request to find out just how costly the committee is. Turns out, it’s not. The agency spent $0 in 2013 (see here and here) maintaining the committee, including all administrative and labor costs.
Congresswoman Louis Slaughter (D-NY) recently went to bat for consumers, asking FDA to reinstate the advisory committee. FDA again claimed it was too costly. With such bankrupt responses, it’s clear that the real cost is to FDA’s industry-friendly agenda and the agency’s efforts to fast-track GMO animals into our food supply.
As Representative Slaughter’s letter noted, the loss of the advisory committee represents the loss of critical measure of transparency and an essential peer-review that FDA clearly and desperately needs. It also means that FDA may soon start springing new regulatory approvals on the public with limited opportunity for public input or scrutiny.
But the public continues to stand up to FDA’s increasingly secretive, stridently pro-industry regulatory process, as millions of consumers, scientists, food producers, native groups, religious leaders and chefs have told the FDA to stop promoting business and start protecting the public.