Stunted Harvest

During Bill Clinton’s administration, with agricultural biotechnology (and other federal technology policy) under the influence of Vice President Al Gore, the policy direction shifted toward the excessive and unnecessary regulation that he had sought unsuccessfully to impose while in Congress.

A prime example is the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 1993 decision to expand its regulatory oversight to include all “genetically modified” animals, including insects. This move was surprising for a couple of reasons.

First, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine decided to subject genetically engineered animals and insects to the same rigorous, burdensome pre-market research and approval procedures and regulations as new veterinary drugs such as antibiotics, pain relievers, and anti-flea medicines. The rationale was that the new DNA in the animal and any proteins it expresses are analogous to drugs that have been injected or ingested—even though animals with identical traits introduced by techniques such as natural breeding, artificial insemination, irradiation, or cloning would not be subject to any premarket review at all.

Second, the U.S. Department of Agriculture—not the FDA—had long been the agency most experienced in dealing with farm animals. And both the USDA and EPA had regulated insect biological control agents, which have been used successfully for more than half a century.

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