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Irradiation: Anything Goes.

Government officials and corporate executives from around the world have decided that the planet's food supply can safely be "treated" with any dose of radiation, a conclusion reached without studying whether new chemicals formed by high-dose irradiation are harmful to humans, Public Citizen reported in November.

Public Citizen is urging that irradiation be studied to avoid harm to the public.

During a three-day meeting that was closed to the public in November at the World Health Organization, the International Consultative Group on Food Irradiation (ICGFI) decided that the maximum radiation dose for food could be eliminated without posing additional hazards to people.

The current international radiation limit is 10 kiloGray -- the equivalent of 330 million chest X-rays, or 2,000 times the fatal radiation dose for humans. The ICGFI reasoned that some food has to be irradiated at high levels to kilt certain microorganisms. In reaching the decision, the ICGFI ignored its own 1994 recommendation to study whether the new chemicals created by high-dose irradiation can cause cancer, mutations, immune system disorders, reproductive malfunctions or other health problems in people. Public Citizen has requested that this recommendation be followed.

Allowed in the meeting room during negotiations over the new anything-goes standard were representatives from several irradiation companies and food industry trade groups, including Titan of San Diego, Isomedix/STERIS of New Jersey, the Grocery Manufacturers of America, and the Association of International Industrial Irradiation. Some of the corporate executives are government-appointed delegates to the ICGFI.

"This is a classic example of how corporations are granted special rights to shape public policy to their liking," says Wenonah Hauter, director of Public Citizen's Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program.
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Author:Mokhiber, Russell
Publication:Multinational Monitor
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:00WOR
Date:Dec 1, 2000
Words:277
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