Many biotech crops incorporate a bacterial gene that protects them against caterpillars such as the corn borer. Others, such as papayas and squash, have been endowed with genes to protect them against viral diseases. Nobody has ever gotten so much as a sniffle from eating these or other biotech foods. Yet the Environmental Protection Agency thinks the crops require more regulations.
In March the EPA proposed rules that would require far more data and testing for crops that have been enhanced with genes to protect them against pests. The agency is expanding oversight in virus resistance and other areas that have long been the purview of the U.S. Agriculture Department. It already takes more than 1,200 days for each new crop variety to be approved.
Several prominent scientists are fighting back against the proposed rules. Led by Nina Fedoroff, the molecular biologist currently serving as president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, 60 members of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences sent a letter of protest to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in July. The letter argues that the agency seeks to "further expand its regulations and data demands …without the slightest justification based on either data or experience."
Imposing new regulations on these low-risk products, the scientists warn, would discourage innovation by burdening academic and commercial researchers with increased costs, reduced efficiency, and prolonged review times without achieving any appreciable benefits for consumers or the environment.