The theater of the absurd is alive and well in Brussels. The circumstances surrounding the European Union's recent approval of cultivation of a genetically engineered potato—its first approval for any genetically engineered plant in 12 years—are reminiscent of Beckett and Ionesco: abstruse and bewildering.
For one thing, the approval took 13 years. A more appropriate period of review would have been closer to 13 hours. What makes me an expert on approval times? In 1982 I directed the U.S. Food & Drug Administration's review of the first genetically engineered biopharmaceuticals—human insulins produced in bacteria that are now used by millions of diabetics. We approved the insulins in record time: five months. Subsequently, I was the founding director of the FDA's Office of Biotechnology.