In September 2006, the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology held a workshop in Washington, D.C., examining issues related to the potential importation into the U.S. of new varieties of genetically engineered (GE) crops and the various implications this could have on the U.S. regulatory system and food industry. Over the course of the two-day event, food processors, growers, federal regulators, international trade experts and representatives of public interest groups gathered to discuss the many issues that could arise should GE imports become more commonplace and to consider how various stakeholders, including federal regulators, could respond.
Some of the key issues discussed in the proceedings include:
- The difficulties that would be faced by U.S. government agencies and the U.S. food chain in attempting to identify potential GE imports, and the multiple authorities that exist to control their entry or sale.
- A possible increase in the accidental mixing of GE with non-GE products as more countries begin cultivating transgenic food crops.
- The risks posed by GE imports may be more serious for business interests than consumer health. Even in cases where there is no public health concern, the accidental or unknown introduction into the U.S. food supply of a GE product developed overseas that has not undergone U.S. regulatory scrutiny could pose significant economic risks for U.S. companies.
- The need for international discussion aimed at developing a rational system for monitoring and enabling trade in GEOs that can ultimately benefit producers of GE products worldwide and those in the food industry.