In an episode titled, “Putting the ‘F’ in FDA,” Professor Joanna Sax lent her expertise on food law, GMOs, and consumer (mis)perception of labeling practices to the influential This Week in Health Law podcast.
Sax addresses how food regulation differs from drugs, devices, supplements, and other goods and services, as well as the role that international food supply plays.
“It is a complicated structure because we rely so much on importing different types of food, and on our international partners’ food safety mechanisms,” Sax says. “Regulation functions differently from the drug and device components where there is a lot of preapproval, and clinical trials where safety and efficacy is tested before market entry—that’s not really what happens with food.” Sax goes on to mention that typically, the FDA’s involvement tends to be more reactive, such as when there’s an outbreak of food-borne illness or similar safety issue.
On GMOs—which Sax is quick to identify as a colloquial term, rather than the more scientifically precise “genetically engineered (GE) foods”—she outlines the multi-agency (FDA, USDA, EPA) regulatory process rife with conflicts of interest that no other types of food must endure.
“That a food product has to go through multiple agencies is very costly—it’s estimated that it takes about 13 years and $136 million to undergo this regulatory review,” Sax says, “which has been problematic for GE foods because it keeps a lot of small players out of the marketplace.”
Sax continues by admitting that GE foods are very controversial with consumers, but they’re not controversial with scientists. “Scientists believe that GE foods are as safe as their conventional counterparts, so there’s been a lot of calls in the scientific community and those that are well versed to not have such strong regulatory hurdles,” says Sax.
To hear the entire podcast, including the top things practitioners, law students, and law professors should know about food law, visit: https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-hbtc5-67c85f.
About Joanna Sax
Professor Joanna Sax is the E. Donald Shapiro Professor of Law. Her research is at the nexus of law and science, and her scholarship addresses ways to incentivize the advancement of science and protect scientific inquiry and innovation. In addition to basic research, she has a strong interest in the translation of advances in basic science. In this vein, Professor Sax is widely recognized for her work on food policy, particularly FDA regulation of dietary supplements and genetically engineered food.