WASHINGTON - President Clinton's affinity for solutions that offer something-for-everybody has been criticized as a sign of weak leadership that pleases nobody, but the emergence of the administration's agricultural biotechnology policy may change all that.
The administration last week published a final USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) rule for the release of genetically engineered organisms that is earning grateful accolades from both the agricultural biotechnology industry and environmentalists.
Also last week, FDA Commissioner David Kessler offered guidance to an FDA advisory committee at a day-long hearing on recombinant bovine growth hormone during which the committee carefully threaded its way between industry representatives seeking approval of rbGH, and consumer and environmental groups demanding consideration of environmental and health risks. The committee found that although Monsanto's BST causes mastitis in dairy cows, the residues from antibiotics that are used to treat this inflammation do not pose an unmanageable health risk to milk consumers.
'A good portent' These actions hint at an approach to agricultural biotechnology by the Clinton-Gore administration that is more cautious than the Bush-Quayle administration, but seeks to respond to both industry and consumer and environmental groups in a timely manner and in a way that both sides can accommodate. The final APHIS rule "is a good portent," said Roger Salquist, chairman and CEO of
Where the Bush administration failed to provide a rule that gave both industry and the public a balance between regulatory oversight and scientific and commercial flexibility, creating a time-consuming regulatory logjam, Salquist said the Clinton administration has succeeded in providing a "responsible and reasonable federal oversight mechanism." The new
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