The USDA announced in March that it was ditching a 2008 proposal that would have updated its regulations for genetically engineered (GE) crops. Following the announcement, the department initiated a new public comment period that we hope will lead to new and better regulations. The USDA continues to regulate GE crops under outdated regulations that don’t adequately protect farmers, the public, and the environment from the negative impacts of GE crops.
Submit comments today. The deadline is June 22.
Quick background: The USDA is one of three agencies that regulate GE crops (along with the EPA and FDA). When these engineered crops landed in our fields and grocery aisles, the U.S. government chose to rely on a patchwork of existing laws, some of which predate the technology, instead of creating a new law to oversee biotechnology. This resulted in a mishmash of agency interpretations for regulating GE organisms. This patchwork approach has left holes: the absence of mandated contamination prevention practices, post-market monitoring, and a mechanism for compensating those harmed by contamination, to name a few. Lacking a robust regulatory framework, the organic and broader non-GE community has shouldered the costly burden of trying to protect their seed, crops, and markets from GE material, and dealing with contamination when it happens.
You can help! Submit comments today, and tell the USDA to develop new regulations that protect farmers, the public, and the environment.
- We need stronger, mandatory regulations immediately. Voluntary, non-regulatory approaches alone won’t do. Companies that develop GE crops should not be left to regulate their own products.
- The USDA must fill existing regulatory holes:
GE crop owners and users must help prevent contamination. Why should those at risk of contamination — including the organic community — shoulder the burden of prevention, testing, and losses alone? New regulations should mandate contamination prevention protocols.
Independent analyses of potential impacts resulting from GE crops are long overdue. We need ongoing oversight that is more comprehensive and coordinated, and that is based on rigorous, independent, and pre- and post-commercialization assessments of economic, environmental, health, social, and other impacts.
Stronger experimental field trial oversight is needed. Current policies and oversight are woefully inadequate for preventing and identifying contamination events at the field trial stage. There needs to be more transparency, monitoring, and restrictions on outdoor experiments.
We need a fair compensation mechanism to support those harmed by contamination. Companies that patent, promote, and profit from GE crops should be responsible for covering losses in cases of contamination.
The USDA should halt the approval of new GE crops at least until new regulations that adequately protect farmers, the public, and the environment are implemented. Remember, comments are due June 22. Make your voice heard today!