The Food and Drug Administration will fund a campaign to promote genetically modified organisms in food under a bipartisan agreement to keep the government funded through the end of September.
The deal to avert a government shutdown, which passed the Senate by a vote of 79 to 18 Thursday, allocates $3 million to “consumer outreach and education regarding agricultural biotechnology,” which includes genetic engineering of food and commodity crops. The money is to be used to tout “the environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic, and humanitarian impacts” of biotech crops and their derivative food products.
More than 50 agriculture and food industry groups had signed on to an April 18 letter urging the funding to counter “a tremendous amount of misinformation about agricultural biotechnology in the public domain.” But some environmental groups and House Democrats have derided the provision as a government-sponsored public relations tour for the GMO industry.
“It is not the responsibility of the FDA to mount a government-controlled propaganda campaign to convince the American public that genetically modified foods are safe,” said Rep. Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.), who attempted to get the measure struck from the bill last month. “The FDA has to regulate the safety of our food supply and medical devices. They are not, nor should they be, in the pro-industry advertising business,” Lowey said during a congressional hearing
It’s unclear what the FDA campaign will look like, or when it will launch. The $3 million allocated is little more than a speck in the FDA’s total allocated budget of $2.8 billion.
The budget specifies only that the initiative be developed in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, and include the “publication and distribution of science-based educational information.” An attempt by Democrats to redirect the project’s funding to pediatric medical projects within FDA was unanimously voted down by Republicans.
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