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U.S. Food Processors Form Task Force

December 16, 2002

Source: Food Production Daily

The board of directors of the National Food Processors Association in the US has approved a position on the use of food crops for production of plant-made pharmaceuticals (PMP) and industrial compounds. "The position taken by the NFPA board of directors makes clear that our top priority remains the production of a safe, wholesome and unadulterated food supply," said John Cady, NFPA president and CEO. "We will not be satisfied with anything short of zero risk to the food supply by substances not approved for human consumption. We live under a zero tolerance so the presence of any amount of these compounds in our food products, no matter how small, will result in their being adulterated."

To implement the NFPA board's approved position, the NFPA has formed an industry Task Force to work with the US government, biotechnology industry and growers to assure that adequate preventive measures and procedures, and the necessary regulatory protections and oversight are instituted to protect the integrity of the food supply.

"The Task Force is initially charged with the responsibility for assembling a full spectrum of food chain stakeholders with expertise in the science of agriculture to assess the protective systems designed to prevent contamination and adulteration of the food supply by non-food substances produced in major food and feed crops such as corn,"Cady said. "NFPA will ask key stakeholders to participate in the Task Force proceedings so that the food industry, as a whole, can speak with one voice on this important issue."

"We must be convinced that it is possible to design systems for absolute confinement and containment of crops producing non-food substances and that a mandatory regulatory framework is in place to assure all necessary protective measures will be taken by producers and users of these crops," Cady stated. "Formation of this Task Force is a signal that the food industry is in search of solutions that will allow valuable and beneficial innovations in crop biotechnology to move forward with assurances of zero risk to the safety and integrity of the food supply."

"The food industry has long been supportive of agricultural biotechnology and its many potential benefits to enhancing the abundance, nutrition and economics of the food supply. Transforming highly productive food crops into factories for pharmaceutical and industrial compounds is another matter altogether. Though we appreciate the benefits these crops will offer to healthcare and other industry sectors, we must be confident that this technology does not supersede the imperative of ensuring a safe, wholesome and unadulterated food supply," Cady noted.

The decision to form the taskforce will undoubtedly be noted by representative bodies in Europe, where the debate about the use of biotechnology in the food supply chain is currently an equally hot topic. Recently the European Commission ruled that genetically modified animal feed could be used, providing it was carefully implemented.

The National Food Processors Association (NFPA) is the voice of the $500 billion US food processing industry on scientific and public policy issues involving food safety, food security, nutrition, technical and regulatory matters and consumer affairs.