Overview of Initiative


The use of modern biotechnology (recombinant DNA technology) to produce foods and food ingredients is a subject of heightened interest among consumers and public policy makers, and within the scientific community. As a result, the news media have extensively covered the subject, seemingly with each development. Eager to contribute to a meaningful dialogue on scientific issues and consumer concerns about rDNA biotechnology, the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), the 29,000-member nonprofit society for food science and technology, implemented a new initiative. IFT's leaders provided the impetus and strategies, including establishment of a Task Force, for the initiative. The Biotechnology Task Force identified the overall goal of providing science-based information about this modern tool to multiple audiences, e.g., its members, journalists, and the general public. The Task Force identified issues within three main topics—safety, labeling, and benefits and concerns—and decided that each would be addressed within a comprehensive, scientific report.

IFT convened a panel of experts, comprising IFT members and other prominent biotechnology authorities, to prepare report sections on each of the three main topics. Each panel contributed to an Introduction section. Thus, this scientific report consists of four parts: Introduction, Safety, Labeling, and Benefits and Concerns. Members of the panels of experts are also identified within each report section. IFT's Office of Science, Communications, and Government Relations coordinated the development of the report.

The report focuses on rDNA biotechnology-derived foods, food ingredients, and animal feed of plant origin, and on the use of rDNA biotechnology-derived microorganisms such as yeasts and enzymes in food production. Milk from cows that have received rDNA biotechnology-derived hormones is discussed; transgenic animals resulting from the application of rDNA biotechnology techniques to animal production are not addressed.

The Introduction presents background information to help readers understand rDNA biotechnology-derived foods and federal regulation and oversight of rDNA biotechnology. The Safety section discusses issues relevant to evaluation of rDNA biotechnology-derived foods, including the concept of substantial equivalence, introduced genetic material and gene products, unintended effects, allergenicity, and products without conventional counterparts. The international scientific consensus regarding the safety of rDNA biotechnology-derived foods is also discussed. The Labeling section provides an overview of the relevant United States food labeling requirements, including constitutional limitations on the government's authority to regulate food labeling and specific case studies relevant to labeling rDNA biotechnology-derived foods. The Labeling section also discusses U.S. and international labeling policies for rDNA biotechnology-derived foods and the impact of labeling distinctions on food distribution systems. Consumer perceptions of various label statements are also disussed. The Benefits and Concerns section considers in detail numerous specific benefits regarding plant attributes; food quantity, quality, and safety; food technology and bioprocessing; animals; the environment; economics; diet, nutrition, and health; and medical benefits. Concerns addressed include economic and access-related concerns, research incentives, environmental concerns, monitoring, allergenicity, antibiotic resistance transfer, and naturally occurring toxicants.

The report sections were published in three issues of Food Technology. The first page of each report section identifies the Food Technology publication volume, month, and page numbers.

IFT extends its deep gratitude to each of the panelists. These experts traveled to full-day meetings in Chicago and devoted many other hours to drafting their respective sections of the report, participating in multiple conference calls to discuss drafts, and reviewing the other report sections. IFT appreciates their invaluable dedication to furthering the understanding of rDNA biotechnology—a tool that is vital to enhancing the world's food supply.

Panel Members

Human Food Safety

Dallas Hoover , Ph.D., Panel Chair, Professor, Department of Animal and Food Science, University of Delaware, Newark. , Ph.D., Panel Chair, Professor, Department of Animal and Food Science, University of Delaware, Newark.

Bruce M. Chassy , Ph.D., Executive Associate Director, Biotechnology Center, Assistant Dean for Biotechnology Outreach, Office of Research, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, University of Illinois, Urbana.

Richard L. Hall , Ph.D., Consultant, Franklin, Maine; Towson, Md.

Harry J. Klee , Ph.D., Eminent Scholar, Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida, Gainesville.

John B. Luchansky , Ph.D., Research Leader, Eastern Regional Research Center, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Wyndmoor, Pa.

Henry I. Miller , Ph.D., Robert Wesson Fellow, Stanford University, Stanford, Calif.

Ian Munro , Ph.D., President, Cantox Health Sciences International, Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

Ronald Weiss , Ph.D., Research Program Manager, Food Research Institute, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Susan L. Hefle, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Food Allergy Research and Resource Program, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Calvin O. Qualset, Ph.D., Director, Genetic Resources Conservation Program, University of California, Davis.

Labeling Panel

John E. Vanderveen , Ph.D., Panel Chair, Scientist Emeritus, Food and Drug Administration, San Antonio, Texas.

John W. Bode , Esq., Principal, Olsson, Frank & Weeda, P.C., Washington, D.C.

Christine M. Bruhn , Ph.D., Director, Center for Consumer Research, University of California, Davis.

Elizabeth (Betty) Campbell , Senior Consultant, AAC Consulting Group, Bethesda, Md.

Susan K. Harlander , Ph.D., President, Biorational Consultants, Inc., New Brighton, Minn.

Gerald Nelson , Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois, Urbana.

Steve Taylor , Ph.D., Professor and Head, Department of Food Science and Technology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.

Benefits and Concerns Panel

Sanford A. Miller , Ph.D., Panel Chair, Dean, Graduate School of Biomedical Science, University of Texas, Health Science Center, San Antonio.

Anthony Artuso , Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Department of Agriculture, Food and Resource Economics, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.

Dennis Avery , Ph.D., Director of Global Food Issues, Hudson Institute, Churchville, Va.

Roger N. Beachy , Ph.D., President, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, Mo.

Peter R. Day , Ph.D., Director, Center for Agricultural Biotechnology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, N.J.

Owen R. Fennema , Ph.D., Emeritus Professor of Food Science, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Ralph Hardy , Ph.D., Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research, Inc., Clarence Center, N.Y.

Peter L. Keeling , Ph.D., Research Director, ExSeed Genetics LLC, and Associate Professor of Agronomy, Iowa State University, Ames.

Todd R. Klaenhammer , Ph.D., NCSU Distinguished Professor, William Neal Reynolds Professor, Food Science and Microbiology; Director, Southeast Dairy Foods Research Center, North Carolina State University, Raleigh.

Martina McGloughlin , Ph.D., Director, Biotech Programs, University of California, Davis.

Anne K. Vidaver , Ph.D., Professor and Head, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln.