The following article is posted with persmission from the Center for Food Safety.
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) and a group of 40 food businesses and retailers, and farm, food safety, environmental and consumer advocacy groups today delivered a letter to leaders of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture warning of the long-term, dangerous and potentially debilitating effects that chemical industry-promoting provisions in the House draft Farm Bill will have on farmers, the environment, public health and the U.S. economy. Far from modernizing the regulatory environment and advancing the health of U.S. agriculture, the buried suite of backdoor biotech riders is the latest attempt by the industry to write its own rules governing genetically engineered (GE) crops, strip the review powers of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and control the future health and safety of U.S. agriculture.
The House’s draft Farm Bill is scheduled for Committee mark-up on Wednesday, July 11 at 10am EDT.
“This is yet another chilling example of the chemical industry’s ongoing campaign to irreversibly alter and control our food supply while they pad their pockets,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. “Every member of the Agriculture Committee has something to lose here if they don’t cut through the deception and reject this direct assault on USDA’s authority and the long-term integrity of our food supply.”
Noted impact areas of the proposed chemical industry-promoting Farm Bill provisions include:
- Provides backdoor approval for any GE crop: Even if USDA has not analyzed, let alone agreed to approve a GE crop, unreasonably short deadlines will be established, creating approval and commercialization by default when the agency misses a target date.
- Advances the approval of “Agent Orange” corn: A second proposed backdoor approval will exist in circumstances where USDA is unable to approve or deny a crop application that has gone through one public comment period within 90 days. In these cases, it would be automatically approved. Such a deadline would be nearly impossible to meet given the volume of public and scientific comments the Department receives, and the number of applications currently being considered. Dow’s highly controversial 2,4-D corn—known as “Agent Orange” corn for its use of a chemical component of the infamous Vietnam Era carcinogenic defoliant—is one of the novel crops that could slip through if this process is successful.
- Guts meaningful analysis of GE crops. The bill would place strict limitations on what USDA can meaningfully consider when conducting environmental reviews of GE crops, and prohibit USDA from using funds to conduct any additional assessments. Further, all requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act or Endangered Species Act, would be banned, even if a crop approval would harm protected species.
- Removes farmer protections, including cross-contamination losses: With the lack of empowered USDA oversight, U.S. farmers, exporters and food businesses would be opened up to risky circumstances similar to the Starlink corn and Liberty Link rice GE crop cross-contamination episodes that cost U.S. farmers and the nation billions of dollars in losses.
- Creates an allowable limit of transgenic pollution: The bill would compel USDA to establish an extremely controversial national policy for “low-level presence” of GE material in crops, which would set for the first time an “acceptable” level of GE contamination in non-GE crops in the U.S. without recourse. Yet consumers have consistently rejected allowing GE contamination to occur, and any policy that evades reasonable restrictions will create unknown risks to human health and severely impact our capability to export to vital foreign markets.
Responding to the release of these biotech riders, the National Grain and Feed Association released a statement last week expressing their concern with the premature commercialization of biotech traits and the potential for unintended consequences that these riders may pose for domestic and export markets.
“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.”
Signed by Center for Food Safety, Earthjustice, National Family Farm Coalition, Organic Trade Association, Sierra Club and several other organizations, the letter was sent to Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN)
The letter can be found at Organizations and Businesses Join to Oppose Stripping of USDA’s Biotech Regulations in House Farm Bill.
About Center for Food Safety
The Center for Food Safety is a 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. More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.