By Ken Roseboro
Published: July 21, 2012
Category: Consumer Attitudes
“An unprecedented and dangerous path that is being carved out”
Several “riders” or amendments to the US Farm Bill are the latest attempt by the biotechnology industry to write its own rules governing genetically modified crops and strip the powers of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to review such crops, according to consumer groups.
According to the Center for Food Safety, these riders have the potential to:
completely eliminate the critical roles of important environmental laws;
pressure USDA with impossible deadlines for analysis and decisions on GM crops, while withholding funds to conduct environmental reviews;
create multiple backdoor GM crop approval mechanisms that would allow the premature commercialization of untested GM traits to enter our food system;
limit the regulatory authority of other agencies, such as EPA; and
force USDA to adopt a controversial policy of allowable levels of GM contamination in crops and foods.
One rider would automatically approve a GM crop if the USDA is unable to approve or deny the application within a 90-day public comment period.
The riders include provisions that would outlaw any review of GM crop impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, or any other environmental law.
According to the Center for Food Safety, this poses a direct threat to the authority of US courts, jettisons the USDA’s established oversight powers on key agriculture issues, and puts the nation’s farmers and food supply at risk.
Another rider, called the “farmers assurance provision,” would require the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a GM crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association and National Grain and Feed Association, which represents more than 1000 companies, are concerned that weakened regulations would expose farmers, grain exporters, and food businesses to greater risks of GMO contamination incidents such as StarLink GM corn and Liberty Link GM rice that cost farmers billions of dollars in losses.
“The House Farm bill currently under consideration would take the USDA’s review process for genetically engineered crops from woefully inadequate to virtually non-existent, making contamination of the food supply or harm to endangered or threatened species almost certain,” said Sarah Saylor, senior legislative representative for Earthjustice. “Automatic approval of genetically altered crops is particularly alarming.”
In early July, a letter signed by 40 organizations and businesses including the Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, National Family Farm Coalition and Organic Trade Association was delivered to Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) opposing the biotech riders.
The Farm Bill, with the riders still attached, passed the House Agricultural Committee on July 11 and was scheduled to go to the full House though there is no definite timetable when that will happen.
Colin O’Neil, regulatory policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, said that opposition to the riders is growing among House members.
“These reckless and unnecessary attacks on our food supply must not stand, and we join our colleagues in calling on Congress to make sure that they do not,” he said.
To contact your Congressional representatives to oppose the riders, visit http://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/1881/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=8071.
© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report, July/August 2012