GMOs are ‘substantially equivalent’ to conventional foods. Should they face reduced regulations?

MARC BRAZEAU | November 22, 2019

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If there is a single concept that drives much of the divide in the GMO debate, it’s substantial equivalence. Having different understandings or misunderstandings of the concept leads to rancor, distrust and talking past each other. Proponents see it as a common sense way of determining if heightened regulatory scrutiny for a new product is warranted or unnecessary. Critics of genetic engineering often see it as some sort of trick — a sleight of hand or legalistic loophole. They ask how something can be so novel that on one hand, it merits the legal protection of a patent monopoly, and then on the other hand, the FDA can declare it to be substantially equivalent to its parent variety or breed. That suspicious and often paranoid take is nearly always based on misunderstandings of the concept of substantial equivalence and how patents work.

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Molecular Medicine Research Institute

The Molecular Medicine Research Institute (MMRI) is committed to translating scientific laboratory findings into direct patient care. Since 1995, MMRI has been exploring the molecular basis of chronic diseases and bridging the gap between science and medical practice through a unique two-part niche program:

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