The New York City Council last week passed a resolution callingfor FDA to adopt regulations requiring the labeling ofgenetically engineered foods. And the New York-basedEnvironmental Defense Fund (EDF) was quick to praise theaction.

"The New York City Council sent a strong message toWashington on behalf of the city's millions of consumers," saidEDF attorney Douglas Hopkins. "EDF hopes the council's actionjump-starts an FDA stuck in a deregulatory stall."

FDA issued a policy statement in late May on regulatinggenetically engineered foods in which the agency announcedthat it would not impose special labeling or other restrictionson such foods based merely on their recombinant origin.

But the EDF feels that "FDA's policy sacrifices consumerprotection by relying on biotech companies to policethemselves," Hopkins said.

Particularly at issue, explained EDF scientist Rebecca Goldburg,is the potential allergenicity of foods that have beenengineered to contain "foreign" proteins, especially non-foodproteins.

Although FDA has said that genetically engineered foodcontaining "new" substances -- including allergens -- has to belabeled to identify those substances, EDF's Goldburg countersthat "this recommendation is inadequate to address thediversity and complexity of food allergies." In fact, she said,"allergy experts have for the most part not determined whatcauses certain proteins to be allergenic." But they do know thatthey're proteins or glycoproteins -- just what you'd find inengineered foods.

Believing that any and all of these "transferred" proteins haveto be tested for potential allergenicity, the EDF has "urged FDAto put together a scientific advisory committee to look at theseissues," Goldburg told BioWorld.

While FDA will "consider carefully all comments made to theagency, and try to respond," press officer Brad Stone toldBioWorld, the agency has "no new data to suggest that adifferent approach (to regulating engineered foods) iswarranted at this time."

-- Jennifer Van Brunt Senior Editor

(c) 1997 American Health Consultants. All rights reserved.