A new 25-page background paper from the environmental group Food & Water Watch is long on information supporting its views on the science and politics surrounding genetically engineered food.   

But the extensively footnoted paper devotes just three paragraphs under a “Safe to eat?” section. The Food & Water Watch writers say GE foods, like non-GE foods, can pose risks to consumers from potential allergens and toxins.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)  is charged with regulating GE, according to Food & Water Watch, but allows the industry to self-regulate.

“In seeking approval, a company participates in a voluntary consultation process with the FDA, and the agency classifies the GE substance either as “generally recognized as safe (GRAS) or a a food additive.”

FDA has not approved any transgenic animals, but a GE-salmon and a GE-pig are currently being considered.

Food & Water Watch says GE crops are beginning to dominate in several areas, and questions about the safety of eating them persist. The paper reports on studies that concluded rats have suffered from liver and kidney problems after being put on a diet of GE corn.

Most of the report is spent making Food & Water Watch’s case against the rapid growth of GE crops, which were first introduced in 1996.  It argues that most GE crops merely kill weeds or resist insects, but have not been “high-yielding” or “drought resistant” as promised.

“The next wave of the “Green Revolution” promises increased technology to ensure food security and mitigate the effects of climate change, but it has not delivered,” the report says.  “The only people who are experiencing security are the few, massive corporations that are controlling the food system at every step and seeing large profit margins.”

The U.S. is the world leader in GE crop production with 88 percent of its corn and 94 percent of its soybeans now biotech, according to F&WW.  It says the U.S. has 165 of the world’s 365 million acres of GE crops.

The report includes summaries for “notable GE crops,” including alfalfa, corn, papaya, potatoes, rice, safflower, sugar beets, tomatoes and wheat.  It predicts that genetically engineered animals will be “the next frontier.”

Lest anyone think F&WW is losing any of its fire by addressing “the biotechnology industry,”  the report also contains a section “Debunking Monsanto’s Myths.”  It even takes exception to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation partnering with biotech industry to develop more nutritious crops for people in the Third World.

Several policy changes are called for in the paper, including a moratorium on U.S. approvals of GE animals, labeling of GE foods, and changing the regulatory structure for GE foods.

F&WW said the report is intended as a scientific and political backgrounder on GE food.  Wenonah Hauter,  F&WW executive director, said the report is in response to “glitzy advertising campaigns” from  biotechnology industry.

“Before consumers accept genetically engineered food, they need to consider the risks and potential consequences involved with radically manipulating the genetic makeup of plants and animals,” Hauter said.

One other political factoid in the report: Lobbying and campaign spending by the biotech industry during the past decade totaled $547 million.