Published: August 6, 2021

Category: GMO News

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and allied plaintiffs recently filed a new federal lawsuit challenging the 2020 decision by the Trump administration’s Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) to eliminate most genetically modified organism oversight, including future GMO crops, trees, and grasses. Previously nearly all GMO plants had to go through formal USDA approval before open air experiments or prior to commercial use.

The new Trump USDA regulations exempt broad categories of GMOs from any pre-market approval and pass any assessment duties to the biotech/pesticide companies to “self-determine” whether their products are exempt or regulated. As explained in the 90-page complaint, the rule change violated numerous core environmental laws, including the Endangered Species Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and the Plant Protection Act. It also unconstitutionally delegated USDA’s statutory responsibilities to self-interested industry.

“The Trump administration broke the law in multiple ways when it handed the car keys to pesticide companies on the future products they develop, regardless of the consequences,” said George Kimbrell, legal director for Center for Food Safety and counsel in the case. “The rules unlawfully eviscerate and abandon USDA’s responsibility to protect farmers and the environment.”

USDA has repeatedly acknowledged the need for stronger GMO crop regulations since 2000, when Congress enacted the Plant Protection Act which gave the agency broad new authority to prevent agricultural, economic, and environmental harms. Now in commercial production for several decades, GMO crop systems are known to cause several significant agricultural and environmental harms, among them organic and conventional crop contamination from GMO crops and market closures, significantly increased pesticide use, and pesticide-resistant “superweeds.”

GMO crops ranging from rice to alfalfa to corn and many in between have caused farmers billions of dollars in market losses from transgenic contamination of conventional or organic crops, as food companies and foreign markets reject tainted supplies.

“Eliminating USDA oversight of GMOs will only exacerbate the rampant consolidation of the agricultural seed and pesticide industry,” said Jim Goodman, board president of the National Family Farm Coalition, a plaintiff in the case. “Farmers, consumers, and the environment will suffer harm, while industry—the only winner in this model—will see profits increase at our expense.”

Because the vast majority of GMOs are engineered to be resistant to weed-killing pesticides, they have dramatically increased the amount of these chemicals sprayed in U.S. agriculture. These GMO herbicide-resistant crop systems have triggered an epidemic of herbicide-immune weeds, which now infest 120 million acres, leading to a toxic spiral of weeds immune to ever more herbicides, and increased spraying of toxic chemical cocktails to kill them.

The mid- to late-season spraying first enabled by GMO crops has also led to massive herbicidal drift injury to both wild plants and other farmers’ crops—damage more extensive than has ever been seen before in the history of U.S. agriculture.

The Plaintiffs in the case are National Family Farm Coalition, Center for Food Safety, Pesticide Action Network North America, Center for Environmental Health, Friends of the Earth, and Center for Biological Diversity, all represented by CFS counsel.

Source: Center for Food Safety

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Organic & Non-GMO Insights August 2021