Statement on Biotechnology Before the Senate Committee by James H. Maryanski-7/10/1999

Many of the foods that are already common in our diet are obtained from plant varieties that were developed using conventional genetic techniques of breeding and selection. Hybrid corn, nectarines (which are genetically altered peaches), and tangelos (which are a genetic hybrid of a tangerine and grapefruit) are all examples of such breeding and selection. Food products produced through modern methods of biotechnology such as recombinant DNA techniques and cell fusion are emerging from research and development into the marketplace.

Bioengineered Foods and Allergic Reactions

Scientists report that only a fraction of the thousands of proteins in the diet have been found to be food allergens. Therefore, it is unlikely that most proteins introduced into food through bioengineering will be allergens. Additionally, scientists can determine whether a transferred protein has characteristics of known food allergens. To date, all new proteins in the bioengineered foods that will be sold in grocery stores have been shown to lack the characteristics of food allergens.

Methods for Genetically Engineering a Plant

the new DNA is linked to a circular ring of genetic material called a transfer plasmid. Plasmids act like molecular taxicabs that carry genes from one place to another. The plasmid can be absorbed by a bacterium that transfers it to plant cells.

Biotechnology of Food, FDA and New Tomato

New plant varieties have been developed using biotechnology, and on May 18, 1994, the Food and Drug Administration announced it had determined that a new tomato developed through biotechnology is as safe as tomatoes bred by conventional means. This was the first time FDA had evaluated a whole for food produced by biotechnology, by which plant improvements can be made more precisely than through traditional cross-breeding.