NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

To Market, To Market

July 30, 2015

In March the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) certified that several new varieties of genetically engineered potatoes and apples are safe to eat, closely following the Department of Agriculture's approval of them for unlimited cultivation and sale. The new products offer intriguing benefits such as:

  • Bruise-resistance.
  • Browning resistance when cut.
  • Less waste.
  • Less of a chemical that is converted to a presumptive carcinogen when heated.

By withholding or delaying approvals of new products that offer improvements in safety, agronomic traits, and appeal to consumers, federal regulators for years have done their best to prevent U.S. researchers and companies from realizing transformative changes in American agriculture using the most modern techniques of genetic engineering:

  • High amounts of time are needed from submission to decision for genetically engineered plants (1,210 days for the USDA, compared to 372 days for Brazil and 771 days for Canada).
  • The average cost of bringing a genetically engineered crop plant to market is $136 million, far more than for other new plant varieties.
  • Redundant prolonged case-by-case reviews are the rule for organisms modified with molecular genetic engineering techniques.

The blame and shame are shared by senior officials at USDA and FDA and in the Obama White House. Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture during the first Obama term, was relentlessly opposed to genetic engineering and obstructed its advances at every opportunity. Excessive regulation comes at a cost of preventing the introduction of beneficial innovation, and eventually lack of innovation is a source of heightened risk to human health and the environment.

Source: Henry I. Miller, "To Market, To Market," Hoover Institute, 2015.


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