USDA Outsources Biotech Crop Evaluation to the GMO Industry


Photo: Giles San Martin

The U.S. is already cultivating 165 million acres of genetically modified crops, up 7 million acres from just two years ago. Modified seeds and large monocultures in general, are monopolizing our nation's agriculture system like never before and crop after crop are deemed "safe" by the USDA. We're headed full speed down a dark, winding road and it seems we're driving blindfolded. And most recently, according to a story on Grist, the USDA is starting a new program which will outsource environmental impact statements on biotech crops to the GMO industry. Obviously, biotech companies are thrilled with the idea.Once the industry conducts its own crop environmental impact statements, which will no doubt paint a glowing picture of each Round Up Ready gem, it will present the assessment to the USDA in the hopes that they will approve the assessment.

According to Karen Batra of the Biotechnology Industry Organization Oregon-based ag journal Capitol Press,

Under the agency's new two-year pilot project, biotech developers would conduct their own environmental assessment of transgenic crops or pay contractors to perform the analysis.

Currently, officials at USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service are responsible for the studies.

Federal environmental law requires the agency to complete such reviews before deregulating biotech crops.

The goal of the new pilot program is to make the process more timely and efficient, according to APHIS.

The program will most certainly be "more timely and efficient," for a biotech industry that has gained 7 million acres of crop cultivation in two years, but it's scary for our food system. This is no surprise considering the USDA's treatment of GMO sugar beets, announcing that farmers were allowed to grow genetically modified sugar beets this season, "while it finishes work on a full environmental impact statement on the beets' effect on other crops and the environment." Later, a court repealed Judge Jeffrey White's ruling that GMO sugar beets be destroyed because the risk of gene contamination in Oregon's Willamette Valley was so great. According to Grist, Judge White warned that environmental impact statements on crops were being conducted too fast, and now with this new pilot program it seems the process will go faster than ever.

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Tags: Agriculture | Farming