FDA to Approve Genetically Engineered Animals; Treat Them as Corporate Intellectual Property

The FDA has adopted new rules allowing companies to sell genetically modified animals and their products on the market, and affirming that the DNA of such animals is private property that can be held under patent.

To be approved, any genetically modified animal product must be proven to the FDA’s satisfaction to be safe for human use in a process similar to that undergone by new drugs. Clinical trials like those needed for drugs will not be required, however. The FDA must also show that any genetically modified animal is healthy.

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The new rules immediately drew harsh criticism from a wide spectrum of opponents. Experts objected to the FDA’s decision to allow the approval process to remain secret in order to protect the financial interests of companies that hold patents on genetically modified animals and their DNA. Environmental and consumer advocates also criticized the rules for ignoring the potential environmental impacts of genetically modified animals.

“Drugs don’t go out and breed with each other. When a drug gets loose, you figure you can control it. When a bull gets loose, it would be harder to corral,” said Jaydee Hanson from the Center for Food Safety.

Others criticized the FDA’s decision to not require labeling of genetically modified animal products as long as there is no change in composition in the final product.

“Consumers have the right to know if the ham, bacon or pork chops they are buying … have been engineered with mouse genes,” said Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union.

Already, companies are lining up to introduce a wide variety of modified animals, from salmon that grow twice as fast as normal to pigs with meat high in omega-3 fatty acids, cows resistant to mad cow disease and animals that produce pharmaceutical products such as insulin in their milk. Researchers have also expressed interest in engineering animals that grow human organs for transplant.

David Gutierrez

Sources for this story include: latimes.com.

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