NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 10, 2004

Many of biotech's travails can be traced back to two decades of unwise strategic decisions by individual companies and by the trade association itself -- the Biotechnology Industry Organization. When researchers and producers of biotech products asked the government to regulate them back in the 1980s, and government agencies were only happy to oblige. The industry pushed for a regulatory framework to ostensibly placate biotech opponents and consumers leery of biotech foods, says Henry I. Miller and Gregory Conko.

However, the industry has admitted that excessive regulation keeps out competitors. More than that, it has created an unintended domino effect for the industry:

  • Heavy U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) policies have made trials on gene-spliced organisms 10 to 20 times more expensive than on plants modified with more conventional techniques.
  • Excessive regulation has created the framework for various "pseudo-crises" that scare consumers and rile anti-biotech activists, such as the story of Monarch butterflies allegedly killed by pollen from gene-spliced plants .
  • Farmers have become reluctant to plant gene-spliced crops and food processors are reluctant to use them.

Indeed, the biotech giant Monsanto is abandoning plans to introduced gene-spliced canola into Australia, due to concerns by consumers and environmental activists. Mendocino County, Calif., voters have approved a referendum that prohibits the sale of gene-spliced wheat.

In the biotech industry's push to keep out competition, it has created a myth that bio-tech products are dangerous and must be highly regulated. In other words, the industry has shot itself in the foot.

Source: Henry I. Miller (Hoover Institution) and Gregory Conko (Competitive Enterprise Institute), "Who Created This Monster?" San Francisco Chronicle, June 8, 2004.


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