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FDA Proposes New Rules on Biotech Foods

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just issued new rules on gene-altered foods, and CBS's Sharyl Attkisson reports that the biotech food industry could not be more pleased.

After two years of angry demonstrations and industry lobbying, the FDA's final proposal for regulating genetically modified food is out, and critics say after all that, the new rules are pretty much the same as the old ones.

"It's clear the FDA has bent over backwards to placate the biotech industry and has done so at the expense of the American consumer," says Joe Mendelson, of the Center for Food Safety.

The new rules would make it mandatory for companies to tell the FDA before putting a new product on the market; most already do that.

Labeling would be voluntary and unlikely since the industry doesn't want it.

What's missing, says consumer advocate Carol Tucker Foreman, is any sort of testing to guarantee GM food won't cause allergic or toxic reactions.

"The company asserts that the product is safe, FDA accepts that assertion. Well of course the company thinks their product is safe," says Carol Tucker Foreman, of the Consumer Federation of America.

FDA Commissioner Jane Henney says it doesn't make sense for the government to do testing when it considers genetically altered crops to be the same as regular food.

"We didn't hear any scientific evidence brought forward that would cause us to think that any products that we have approved are unsafe," says Jane Henney, MD, FDA Commissioner.

Plants genetically modified to make them resistant to pesticides, insects or drought have made their way into thousands of products--unlabeled--in recent years. But the whole concept is so new, nobody knows what problems the next generation of GM food could bring.

The FDA says it will put more information on its web site as new products come to market. But consumer groups say that's not enough, and are now setting their sights on congress, hoping for a law to force testing and labels whether the FDA wants to or not.

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