Trump Administration’s USDA further weakens oversight of genetically engineered and gene edited crops

Published: June 2, 2020

Category: GM Food Labeling and Regulations

Majority will now receive no USDA oversight

A majority of genetically engineered and gene edited plants now will escape any oversight on the part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture under revised regulations issued recently by the agency.

Under the newly released regulations, the overwhelming majority of GE plant trials would not have to be reported to USDA, or have their risks analyzed before being allowed to go to market. New GMO experiments could be conducted without USDA involvement or any measures to prevent genetic drift to neighboring crops. Rather than mandating stricter monitoring of open-air GE experiments, USDA’s new proposal instead abdicates government responsibility, and in most cases leaves it up to the chemical companies—like Monsanto/Bayer and Dow—to self-police their new GE experiments.

Ironically the revised and weaker regulations were given the Orwellian acronym SECURE (Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient).

The not-so-SECURE rules were roundly criticized by environmental groups, consumer advocacy organizations, and food industry stakeholders who have implored USDA to eliminate a provision allowing crop developers to self-determine whether their products are regulated.

“While revisions to USDA’s regulations—first drafted in 1987—are necessary in order to ensure that the regulatory scheme adequately addresses the harms associated with current GE technology, the new regulations finalized by USDA, paradoxically named the SECURE rule, are anything but secure,” said Sylvia Wu, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. “Instead of fixing long-standing deficiencies and strengthening the regulatory system to guarantee proper oversight of new GE technologies and their associated risks, the revised regulations dramatically scale back USDA’s regulatory authority, leaving most GMOs unregulated.”

“The result is that government regulators and the public will have no idea what products will enter the market and whether those products appropriately qualified for an exemption from oversight,” said Center for Science in the Public Interest biotechnology project director Gregory Jaffe. “They will stealthily enter our food supply at a time when consumers want greater transparency, leading to potential consumer backlash and acceptance problems, even for safe and beneficial products. That is why many industry members supported increased transparency.”

Sources: Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest

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