In the GM plant business, gaining regulatory approval clears a huge hurdle. In fact, you'd expect it to be the last hurdle, because it would be odd to incur the application costs until you were pretty confident you had a marketable product. So this week's news from Brazil is stunning.
Embrapa, a state-owned agricultural research company, is reported to have stopped commercial release of its new GM bean, despite having already gained approval from the regulator. Embrapa decided that
- the benefits (virus resistance) were over-sold, and
- the costs (toxicity etc) were not properly investigated.
The whole regulatory apparatus needs total reform though. The GMWatch piece gives an insight into their process:
In a decision taken by fifteen members of CTNBio – including representatives from the defense, foreign affairs and other ministries – the transgenic bean was authorized for planting and consumption. Four dissenting votes, representing the ministries of health, environment, and NGOs, advocated further studies.
This sounds like a political process disconnected from the realms of science, health and ecology. Bear in mind too that this decision was taken 3 years ago: all good for planting and consumption. Now, 3 years later after further work Embrapa kills off the whole project.
I'm starting to understand how Brazil got to be such a goldmine for GM companies.