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Implicit precaution, scientific inference, and indirect evidence: the basis for the US Environmental Protection Agency's regulation of genetically modified crops

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In this study, we explore how the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses science in its overseeing of genetically modified (GM) plants producing their own pesticides (plant-incorporated protectants or PIPs). Our analysis is based on a systematic review of EPA's product assessments, regulatory decisions and policy documents on GM plants. In regulating PIPs, product characteristics remain the fundamental basis for the agency's risk assessment. However, a recent ruling by the EPA represents a departure from a strict "product" approach to risk assessment. By considering not only product characteristics, but also the process by which a GM crop was developed, the EPA may be seen as adopting a cautionary approach under conditions where current science is unable to resolve whether GM crops and foods impose unique risks by comparison with products derived through conventional breeding. The EPA's case-by-case evaluations of GM products rely heavily on models and indirect measurements interpreted through biological and biochemical principles.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Gerald J. & Dorothy R. Friedman, School of Nutrition Science & Policy, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA Department of Urban & Environmental Policy & Planning, Tufts University, Medford, MA 02155, USA

Publication date: August 1, 2003

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