Nina V. Fedoroff is right that genetic engineering offers incalculable potential for humankind. Crops are being altered to resist drought and floods, grow in poor soils, make vitamins for people without pharmacies, and last longer on the shelf. Bacteria have been modified to make insulin and to digest hazardous waste. The list goes on.
Ms. Fedoroff is also right that current federal regulation hurts progress on genetic modification. In fact, it’s a trip down the rabbit hole to Wonderland. But there are risks if modified life forms escape from controls, reproduce and spread, and the federal government recently announced that some modified organisms are beyond its control.
On the one hand the U.S. wants to be defending U.S. companies overseas and they are going to see this as vindictive, particularly in going after Apple’s profits retroactively. But in the bigger picture the U.S. is taking moves to fight inversions and improve the global system.
We need a new transparent, understandable law. Public support for transgenics will come from knowledge and participation. The Clinton administration was working on such a law when its term expired. Now is a good time to take that off the shelf and move forward.