The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may say
bioengineered foods are safe, but two natural-food chains say they
don't trust the agency's word.
Colo.-based Wild Oats Markets and Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods
Market are banning genetically engineered foods from their private
product lines. "There are significant unanswered health and
environmental concerns," says a Wild Oats
Bioengineered foods are created by
inserting plant or animal genes into another plant or animal.
Critics of the technology have dubbed the products "Frankenfoods."
The companies' decisions came on the heels of
public meetings the federal agency held last year on bioengineered
foods. The meetings drew hundreds of people, a comment period drew
even more, and now FDA staffers are sorting through almost a
thousand pages of transcripts to determine the next step.
Expressing the concern of many consumers, Mark Giese of Racine,
Wis., told the FDA, "I want to know what's in my food."
Meanwhile, politicians are getting involved.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, introduced a bill to require
mandatory labeling of bioengineered foods, and similar bills are
expected in California.
As the debate heightens,
scientists seem split. Some, such as Susanne Huttner, director of
University of California's biotechnology program, say bioengineered
foods are as safe as traditional foods. "New biotech foods are
already subject to an extensive oversight system that addresses a
variety of questions regarding food and environmental safety," she
But others, including University of
Minnesota ecology professor Philip Regal, disagree: "I'm very
concerned that the system is willing to gamble by not taking more
steps to screen out the ecological and human-health risks of new