Could GE Crop Regulations Be Any Weaker?
Surprising as it may seem, the answer could be “yes!”
In the waning months of the Bush Administration, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture (USDA) released a proposal to completely overhaul its regulation of
genetically engineered crops, significantly weakening its oversight. No
longer would USDA start from the assumption that a new GE crop must be
regulated; and some could be exempted altogether. The proposed rule would virtually
ensure that contamination of organic and conventional crops will become even
more frequent, and even excuses the Agency from taking any action to remedy
such contamination. And, the rule would continue to allow the dangerous
practice of producing drugs and industrial chemicals in food crops grown in the
open environment. In short, if implemented, the proposed rule would allow
the wholesale deregulation of the agricultural biotechnology industry.
Over four years ago, USDA promised stricter oversight of genetically
engineered crops; unfortunately, improvements considered early-on have vanished and
the regulations have instead become weaker. The proposed rule now has even
more gaping holes than the regulations it is replacing, and creates a few
new ones as well, resulting in more public exposure to untested and unlabeled
genetically engineered foods. Instead of tightening controls to protect
the public and the environment from contamination and harm, what USDA has
offered further endangers the public’s right to choose the foods families eat
and farmers’ right to their chosen livelihoods.
To make matters worse, USDA published the rule before publishing the full
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as required by law, and in the absence
of public review of the data needed to make regulatory recommendations.
Clearly, there is something wrong with this picture. We are calling on the
Obama Administration to reject the irresponsible Bush “anything goes” biotech
policy. And we are requesting a moratorium on commercial planting of any new
GE crops until comprehensive regulations are in place.
The good news is that USDA has reopened the comment period on the proposed
rule and we are seizing this opportunity to ask the new Administration to
take a fresh look at how GE crops are regulated. We urge our supporters to
join us in demanding that the Agency release the EIS for public comment before
it proceeds with any further rule-making or GE crop approvals. Public
comments are being accepted through March 17, 2009.
Tell USDA to: (1) Withdraw the proposed rule; (2) Release the EIS for
public review and comment and to be used as a basis for further rule-making; and
(3) Suspend all new GE crop approvals until the above has been satisfactorily
completed and unless and until GE crops are proven safe.
The USDA does not have to listen to your complaints.
Make a copy of the Letter using Select and Copy, and Email your Congressman
and Senators-each state has 2. Ask them to Contact the Chairman of the
Agriculture Committee to ask the USDA to stop this remnant of Bush Era
Send a letter to the following decision maker(s):
Docket No. APHIS-2008-0023
Below is the sample letter:
Subject: Docket No. APHIS-2008-0023
Dear [decision maker name automatically inserted here],
Docket No. APHIS-2008-0023
Regulatory Analysis and Development
PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.
Re: Docket No. APHIS-2008-0023, Importation, Interstate Movement, and
Release into the Environment of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms.
I am very concerned about the risks posed by genetically engineered
crops--especially those crops engineered to withstand repeated applications of
herbicides and crops that produce drugs and industrial chemicals. They threaten
human health, family farmers, wildlife, and the environment. I urge USDA to
withdraw the proposed rule, publish the Environmental Impact Statement, and
suspend all new GE crop approvals in the interim.
After USDA releases the EIS, a comment period of at least 90 days is needed
so the public has the opportunity to fully participate in a transparent
process on this important issue. This will not only aid in the development of t
he final EIS but also in the drafting of a new proposed rule. The current
proposed rule does little to close the loopholes in the regulations the rule is
designed to replace and it creates more gaps than it fills. For example:
As currently proposed, the rule allows biotech companies to self-assess the
safety of their own experimental GE crops to determine whether USDA should
even regulate them. The proposed criteria are open-ended, subjective, and
would substantially reduce USDA?s oversight of a wide range of GE crops. Most
egregiously, it is not genetic engineering that triggers regulation under the
rule, it is the determination that the technology "poses a potential plant
pest risk" and it is the developer that makes that initial decision. This is a
clear abdication of regulatory responsibility by USDA.
The proposed rule would also allow companies to grow some GE crops with no
oversight whatsoever. Under the proposed "tiered system," USDA could
eliminate entire categories of GE crops or varieties with which they have
"familiarity," despite the USDA?s acknowledgement that doing so would "increase gene
flow between GE and non-GE crops." This policy virtually ensures that
contaminatio n episodes will become more frequent. To add insult to injury, USDA has
proposed to include a "Low Level Presence" policy in the law which excuses
it from taking any action to remove experimental GE crop material from
conventional or organic food, feed, and seed. Experience shows that such
contamination often causes severe economic harm to farmers, and could threaten the
environment as well. Further, USDA's proposal of "Conditional Exclusion" wrongly
enables developers to obtain exemptions from permit requirements without
publication, notice, or public comment. This unfairly limits transparency and
blocks the public from participation in important decisions that affect
public health, the environment, and the economy.
Despite repeated assurances that pharmaceutical and industrial GE crops
would be subjected to increased monitoring, reporting, oversight, and
management, USDA rejected scientifically-sound options that would have banned outdoor
cultivation of GE phar maceutical- and chemical-producing food crops. This is
the only way to ensure that untested drugs and industrial chemicals don't
end up in our food. It also ignores the strong support such protective action
enjoys from citizens and the food industry. USDA has also refused to propose
any controls on pesticide-promoting GE crops, despite documented increases
in pesticide use caused by herbicide-tolerant crops and an epidemic of
resistant weeds that have been fostered by these crops.
Finally, the rule includes language that bars state or local regulation of
GE crops that are more protective than its own weak rule. I strongly oppose
such preemptive language that would bar local or state authorities from
putting meaningful regulations or restrictions on GE crops in place that best suit
In sum, I urge you to: (1) Withdraw the proposed rule; (2) Release the EIS
for public review and comment, and to be used as a basis for further
rule-making; and (3 ) Suspend all new GE crop approvals until the above has been
satisfactorily completed and unless and until GE crops are proven safe.
_Click here to take action_
on this issue
Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.
What's At Stake:
To read our substantive, organizational comments from the previous comment
period _CLICK HERE_
The full text of the USDA APHIS proposed rule, Docket No. APHIS-2008-0023,
can be found _HERE_
Campaign Expiration Date:
March 17, 2009
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