In the waning months of the Bush administration, the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) has joined the ranks of federal
agencies rushing through new regulations that weaken protections
for human health and the environment. USDA has released a
proposed rule that would significantly weaken oversight of all
genetically engineered crops, and which continue to allow
companies to grow food crops engineered to produce drugs and
The USDA began this process over four years ago by promising
stricter oversight. Unfortunately, improvements considered early
on have been dismissed, and the proposed rule now has the same
gaping holes as the policy it is replacing, and creates a few
new ones, as well. For instance:
* USDA has created a huge loophole allowing biotech companies to
assess their own crops to determine whether USDA should regulate
them. And the criteria are open-ended, very subjective, and will
certainly reduce USDA?s oversight of GE crops.
* The proposed rules could also allow companies to grow untested
GE crops with no oversight whatsoever: “Over time, the range of
GE organisms subject to oversight is expected to decrease…,” a
move which USDA itself admits will make contamination of
conventional/organic crops with untested GE material more
* To add insult to injury, USDA has proposed to write into law
its “Low Level Presence” policy, which excuses it from taking
any action to remove untested GE crops from conventional or
organic food, feed and seed. This contamination often occurs
through cross-pollination or seed dispersal, and has cost
farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost sales and
* USDA rejected options that would have banned outdoor
cultivation of pharmaceutical-producing GE (food) crops, the
only way to ensure that untested drugs don’t end up in our food,
despite strong support from citizens and the food industry.
* USDA has refused to propose any controls on
pesticide-promoting GE crops, despite increasing pesticide use
and an epidemic of resistant weeds that have been fostered by
* Finally, USDA snuck in a last-minute “correction” that bars
state or local regulation of GE crops more protective than its
own weak rule. CFS strongly opposes such preemptive language
that would bar local or state authorities from putting
meaningful regulations or restrictions on GE crops in place that
best suit their communities. This last-minute change should be
cause to extend the public comment period.
The USDA is treading dangerous new ground here. The structure of
the new proposal opens loopholes that can be exploited by
biotech companies and expose consumers to more untested and
unlabeled genetically engineered foods.
After denying requests for an extension to the short comment
period given for the proposed rules, USDA’s comment period
closes on Monday. Sign our petition to the USDA today and demand
stronger–not weaker–regulations for genetically engineered
Sign this petition via the web at:
Visit the web address below to tell your friends about this.
We encourage you to take action by November 25, 2008
USDA Rushing Through Dangerous New Rules on GE and
INSTRUCTIONS TO RESPOND VIA THE WEB:
If you have access to a web browser, you can take action on this
alert by going to the following URL:
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 genetically engineered
crops–especially those engineered to produce drugs and
industrial chemicals–pose to human health, family farmers,
wildlife, and the environment. I urge USDA to close the gaping
loopholes in its proposed rules, and put stronger–not
weaker–regulations in place. In particular:
1)Please follow the advice of the National Academy of Sciences
and make genetic engineering the trigger for USDA oversight so
that ALL experimental GE crops are properly regulated. This
approach is scientifically sound, administratively efficient,
and more protective of public health, the environment, and the
interests of farmers. Eliminate loopholes that exempt any GE
crop that has not undergone a determination of non-regulated
status from USDA regulatory oversight.
2)Please do NOT incorporate the “Low Level Presence”
policy in the final rule. Instead, make zero presence of
experimental GE crops in food and feed your management goal, and
gear your implementing regulations to achieve it as fully as
possible. In particular, make all field trials of experimental
GE crops subject to strict gene containment standards at least
as stringent as those now applied to pharmaceutical-producing GE
3)Please reconsider your “business as usual” pharma crop policy,
and instead adopt one of two alternatives you proposed in the
Draft Environmental Impact Statement - a simple ban on outdoor
cultivation of all pharmaceutical-producing crops, or at least
pharmaceutical-producing food crops - to best protect public
health and the environment.
4)Please regulate as necessary pesticide-promoting,
herbicide-tolerant GE crops in order to address the rise in
pesticide use these crops have fostered, and to mitigate the
growing threat posed by herbicide-resistant weeds to farmers and
the interests of American agriculture.
5)Remove any preemption clause that bars state and local
authorities from enacting laws or regulations to control GE
crops as they best see fit.