WASHINGTON -- The White House Office of Management andBudget is reviewing proposed changes to the FederalInsecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) that couldalter requirements under which genetically engineeredmicroorganisms would be qualified for large-scale field tests.

The proposed changes under the ongoing FIFRA review havenot been disclosed.

On Thursday, an administration spokesman declined to confirmreports that the White House also planned to push forelimination of field test requirements entirely for certaingenetically engineered traits as part of a proposed 90-daymoratorium on implementation of new federal regulations.

A review of regulations undertaken during the moratoriumalso reportedly would consider use of university review boardsrather than the Environmental Protection Agency to decidewhether field trials are necessary in some cases.

Jerry Caulder, chairman and chief executive officer at MycogenCorp. (NASDAQ:MYCO), said he hopes a moratorium would allowregulators to eliminate uncertainty in the regulatory processand duplication of procedures.

On the other hand, an unconfirmed report that theadministration is considering a rollback of existing regulationslooks like a product of "domestic disarray at the White House,"said Roger Salquist, chairman and chief executive officer ofCalgene Inc. (NASDAQ:CGNE).

Salquist, whose company is preparing to bring a geneticallyengineered tomato to market, said consumer response wouldbe "predictably negative."

Doug Hopkins, senior attorney for the Environmental DefenseFund, said he opposed allowing university review boards todecide whether field trials are necessary because of"notoriously rampant" conflicts of interest. "Harvard Universityhas at least 60 biomedical scientists who are associated with atleast 33 different private firms that we are aware of, andHarvard exemplifies the situation at major universities aroundthe country," he said.

-- Kris Herbst BioWorld Washington Bureau

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