Freeze U.S. approvals of GM crops
Contacts: Contacts: Bill Wenzel, Center for Food Safety (202) 547-9359; Lisa Bunin, Center for Food Safety, (415) 826-2770; Heath Fradkoff, Goodman Media, (212)-576-2700
Groups Seek Revamping of Midnight Bush Administration Rules and Demand More Protections for Farmers, the Public, and the Environment
Washington, DC, March 20, 2009 - Today eighty-two farm, food, public interest, and environmental organizations delivered a letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging him to freeze approval of all new genetically engineered crops (GE) until the agency corrects serious deficiencies in how they are regulated. In the waning months of the Bush Administration, USDA released a proposal to overhaul its regulation of GE crops, significantly weakening oversight. The letter puts the new Administration on notice that the public demands a more thorough evaluation of GE crops, greater public input, and stricter regulation.
"Peoples' right to choose the food they eat and farmers' right to plant the crops of their choice is at risk with these proposed rules," said Bill Wenzel, Policy Advisor, Center for Food Safety. "USDA must engage in a new rulemaking process that makes significant revisions to protect the rights and livelihoods of farmers, the public, and the environment."
Over four years ago, USDA promised stricter oversight of genetically engineered crops but the improvements considered early on have vanished. Instead, the existing midnight rules offer less regulation and even more self-policing by the biotech industry. Although the initial comment period on the proposed rules ended in November 2008, the agency extended the deadline for comments after it received extensive criticisms from diverse stakeholders. USDA plans to host a public meeting in April to discuss key concerns and gaps in regulation before the rulemaking process continues.
The letter delivered to Secretary Vilsack identifies numerous gaps and problems in the proposed rules including the specific lack of protections against GE contamination of non-GE conventional and organic crops, a problem that has already cost farmers billions in lost markets and continues to threaten their livelihood. It criticizes the weakening of existing GE crop oversight provisions by waiving oversight of whole categories of GE crops. Perhaps most egregiously, the proposal would completely hand over the duty of determining whether GE regulations apply to a given crop to the biotech industry, without requiring USDA approval and without public participation or notice.
Given the comprehensive nature of the proposed rule revisions and the impact on the deregulation decision-making process, signatories to the letter call for an immediate freeze on all new GE crop approvals until final regulations are promulgated and until USDA addresses the critical concerns and regulatory gaps that have been raised.
View the Letter
The Center for Food Safety is national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. On the web at: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org