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NFC: Interesting News Article

I don't know if this has been posted to the group yet, as I have been
unsubscribed for vacation, but I thought it was a very interesting article.

Thursday May 4 5:23 PM ET

 GMOs May Pose New Risk to Endangered Plants, Animals

 By Julie Vorman

 WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Rare U.S. animals and wildlife could be threatened by transgenic fish and plants being developed in laboratories unless the
federal government
 provides safeguards, a senior Interior Department official said on Thursday.

 William Brown, a science adviser to Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, said the department was concerned that some new genetically altered organisms
could inadvertently harm
 the environment, much like invasive plants.

 For example, the less than 200 remaining Atlantic salmon living in Maine rivers could be quickly wiped out if transgenic fish grown in nearby
aquaculture farms escape their pens,
 Brown said.

                         A similar risk is posed by developers of transgenic aquarium fish, which are engineered to be bigger, stronger and more
colorful than conventional

                         ``Maybe the situation can be managed just fine,'' Brown told a National Academy of Sciences committee studying biotech food
                         environmental issues. ``But I'm worried that some of these species are falling between the cracks of current regulations.''

 He urged the committee to take a close look at how federal safeguards can be developed for organisms that might be a new threat to endangered

 U.S. regulations for genetically modified organisms are administered by the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the
 U.S. Agriculture
 Department. The FDA handles food safety and labelling, the EPA monitors crops engineered to repel pests, and the USDA oversees field testing of
transgenic crops.

 The Interior Department, which has taken little part in federal biotech policies, administers public lands as well as protecting endangered species.

 Brown said some rare plants could be at risk if transgenic crops growing nearby inadvertently developed a generation of ''super weeds.'' Likewise,
pollen from fields of Bt corn
 -- engineered to resist the destructive European corn borer -- could affect some butterfly species that are already dwindling in numbers, he said.

 The new National Academy of Sciences panel, made up of 18 physicians, academics, researchers and consumer experts, held its first meeting on Thursday
 to begin mapping the
 key scientific issues that need to be analyzed.

 The USDA has already asked the new committee to review its regulation of genetically modified crops and suggest what improvements could be made.

 At its meeting, the panel also heard from several federal agencies that have little-known biotech projects underway.

 The Energy Department has a $100 million project for microbial research and gene-mapping, and the Commerce Department's National Institute of
Standards and Technology
 develops DNA diagnostics used by crime labs.