The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes it clear that their regulations on our foods, drugs, cosmetics, etc. are not created in a vacuum, rather they are "formed with the public’s help."
The mainstay of this public interaction is through providing an open comment period. The FDA states, "By law, anyone can participate in the rule-making process by commenting in writing. FDA routinely allows plenty of time for public input (typically 60 days) and carefully considers these comments when it draws up a final rule."
But, who are the "public" that provide comments on these issues?
From the looks of it - not scientists.
One month ago, we wrote a story "FDA Call For Comments On Genetically Edited Food." This comment period is for plants that are gene-edited, which is quite different from being a typical genetically modified organism (GMO), in that they do not necessarily contain new genetic material. Rather, a small amount of their own genome may have been removed or simply altered. So, these new plants fall into a category all their own.
In a general sense, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have a shared responsibility for regulating agriculture and biotechnology related to agriculture in the United States.
But, none of these agencies have a policy in place on gene edited technology that is not a traditional GMO. We need a new one and we need scientific voices to be a part of the process.
But, those voices are missing. As of today, there are 191 comments on the page of the "Genome Editing in New Plant Varieties Used For Foods". Under 10% of the comments are in favor of gene edited food. Ninety percent of the comments are opposing and, for the most part, have "poison", "toxic" or the like in the comment.
As we said a month ago, and we'll say it again here - it is through participation in the conversation that we create stronger, science-based decisions.
So, scientists and pro-science people! There are 41 more days left, folks! Write a comment in there that says that you are not opposed to altering the DNA of your vegetables! If we don't, who will?
The comment period is open until April 19, 2017. To submit a comment, please follow the instructions that can be found on this link.