BIO Statement on NAS Report on Biotech Organisms

Dr. Val Giddings, vice president of agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) issued the following statement in response to today's National Academies of Science (NAS) report titled "Biological Confinement of Genetically Engineered Organisms."

WASHINGTON, DC (January 20, 2004) -- "Today's recommendation from the National Academies of Science that regulators "decide whether and how to confine a 'genetically engineered organism'..." has formed the heart and soul of federal regulation since the technology's earliest days. Nearly 30 years ago scientists first came together at Asilomar to harness this nascent technology to maximize potential benefits without causing harm to any living thing. The conclusions in this most recent report, commissioned by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), confirm that technology providers have a variety of methods available to ensure confinement of organisms modified through biotechnology when risk warrants it.

"The NAS panel has scanned the wide variety of biotech-enhanced plant and animal organisms that can provide societal benefits, including higher-yielding and disease-resistant crops, medicines unavailable through other means, or fish that reach maturity faster and with less impact on the environment and water resources.

"At the request of USDA, this forward-looking report acknowledges the need for flexibility in the regulatory framework which has provided a safe and sound approval process over the 16 years industry and academia has been developing new products of agricultural biotechnology. It is absolutely appropriate that as the biotechnology industry matures, the regulations will be elaborated upon and modified as we learn more through experience; this is the normal course of science.

"As policy-makers study this report to set a future course of regulation, the goal should be to reinforce the three fundamental principles of existing regulation: that all regulations are science-based; that they focus on properties of the transferred gene, not its origin in recognition that DNA is DNA; and that the level of regulation is based on the level of risk to public health, not a precautionary 'doomsday' approach."

The Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) represents more than 1,000 biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations in all 50 U.S. states and 33 other nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health care, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products.