What is in this article?:
- USDA to give speedy approval to new GE crops
- Why the murky science?
The USDA recently announced it will expedite genetically engineered (GE) seed deregulation petitions. Is this the kiss of death for organic? We dig into why science on GMOs remains murky and what this new process means for the non-GMO movement.
Lately it seems like non-GMO supporters simply can’t catch a break.
In the wake of an unsuccessful lawsuit between the Organic Seed Growers and Monsanto Co., and news that BASF—the largest chemical company in the world—will be relocating it’s biotech plant headquarters to the United States, the USDA has also granted speedy approval of new genetically engineered (GE) crops.
According to a recent press release titled “USDA Announces Improvements to Genetically Engineered Petition Process,” the duration from when a petition is submitted to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for deregulation, to when it’s approved—a process that normally takes roughly three years to complete—will be shaved in half.
In the press release, Ed Avalos, undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs for the USDA stated, “With the improvements announced today, APHIS will significantly reduce the average length of the petition process while maintaining strong oversight. The new process will also provide the opportunity for earlier input from the public on petitions for deregulations, allowing USDA to better serve all its stakeholders.”
While the USDA touts the amended process will provide farmers with a wider range of beneficial choices, many believe the term "stakeholders" refers primarily to biotech supergiants, such as Monsanto.
What are the repercussions?
For non-GMO activists, consumers who spent $1 billion in Non-GMO Verified products in 2011, and the 600,000-plus citizens who have signed Just Label It’s petition to tell the FDA they want GE foods labeled, this is an egregious setback.
Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety—an organization which has filed numerous lawsuits against Monsanto—clarifies why the espousal of the new initiative will bastardize the already-muddled system of deregulation. “In the former regulatory process, the USDA conducted environmental assessments of new seeds intended for deregulated use. Only after these assessments were released could the public comment on the projected petition. With the new ‘streamlined’ system, public considerations are taken from the very beginning," Freese explained.
“This is not a good process because the public needs to have opportunity to comment on the adequacy of the environmental report.” The pledge to cut approval time is disturbing because the USDA is already doing a subpar job reviewing petitions and crops, said Freese. “They haven’t vetoed one GE crop to date.”
The speedy approval is a coup for companies such as Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, and Syngenta Biotechnology, who in 2011 alone submitted deregulation petitions for drought-resistant corn [MON 87460], Roundup Ready sugar beets, cotton engineered for insect resistance [COT67B], Roundup Ready alfalfa, soybeans engineered for insect resistance [MON 87701], and most disturbingly, corn resistant to the herbicide 2, 4-D (one of the active ingredients in Agent Orange and a known immunosuppressor), among others. These companies consistently insist the transgenic products are tested and safe to eat.