The Food and Drug Administration has aimed its sights at smartphone applications created for the purpose of improving the user’s health such as blood sugar monitors and digital stethoscopes. In an attempt to screen medical apps in the same way that medical devices such as ultrasound machines are regulated, the FDA is demanding that health-based smartphone apps meet FDA standards before being approved for use. According to the FDA, some medical apps may pose a risk to human health. In contrast, the FDA has stated that genetically modified (GM) creations such as AquaAdvantage salmon are not “materially” different from regular salmon despite studies linking GM foods to a host of crippling health conditions.
At the moment only a small number of apps carry the seal of FDA approval. The reason for this is that app developers only need approval from one source when it comes to publishing an app — Apple. While approval from the FDA may bring in more sales from customers who find the administration to be trustworthy, it currently plays a very insignificant role. With the FDA’s involvement, the process of developing apps that are oftentimes designed to help consumers make smart choices would be overhauled. The FDA could simply disapprove of applications going against its statements that GM foods aren’t “materially different” than real foods. Apps that highlight which products contain such GMO’s may be censored for being “scientifically incorrect” in the eyes of the FDA.
“This area is growing exponentially,” said Bakul Patel, an FDA adviser. “We’re looking at the mobile applications that would pose a risk if they didn’t work as intended.”
Genetically modified AquaAdvantage salmon was banned by the U.S. House of Representatives on the grounds that more research was needed to prove that it was not a threat to human health. The FDA was against labeling the salmon before the House blocked it from approval, and stated that it was “materially” the same as any other salmon. Despite this claim by the FDA, studies have proven that GM foods are a threat to human health, with the full long-term consequences still unknown. One such study published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences conclusively found that 3 Monsanto GM corn varieties led to organ dysfunction. Unfortunately, the FDA has a bad history of mislabeling harmful products. It is the previous labeling mistakes by the FDA that has led The United States Secretary of Agriculture to warn consumers that he is unsure whether or not cloned meat has been sold in the United States.
The FDA is attempting to regulate almost every health-related sector of industry from smartphone applications to distribution of raw organic milk. The current proposed regulations target a digital market that Ilkka Korhonen, a former senior manager of Nokia Corp.’s wellness business program, estimates may climb to $6 billion in 2015. Dismantling economic growth during the world’s spiraling financial crisis will only destabilize markets further, and limit consumer’s abilities to have access to health-enabling information through free applications.