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Comments Needed: Tell USDA to Strengthen GE Crop Regulations

(Beyond Pesticides, March 6, 2009) The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has reopened a proposed rule for public comment. Originally posted in October 2008, the rule on “Importation, Interstate Movement, and Release Into the Environment of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms” has been the target of a Center for Food Safety (CFS) campaign to prevent weakening of genetically engineered crop (GE) regulation. In its November comments, CFS called “on [USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] APHIS to carefully consider these comments, reconsider the deregulatory approach taken in this proposed rule, and formulate a final rule that is adequate to the task of protecting the environment, the interests of agriculture, and the public health.”

The proposed rule raises a number of issues, including the potential to increase herbicide and insecticide resistance by growing crop contamination. In addition, it proposes “deleting the list of organisms which are or contain plant pests.” This list represents the genetic elements that GE companies alter, which are then trigger USDA’s regulatory process. “Whether a GE crop falls within the scope of regulation or not will now be much more open to interpretation,” said CFS Science Policy Analyst Bill Freese at the time. “We can expect the range of GE organisms subject to oversight to decrease over time, allowing for future food safety regulatory failures.”

As this second comment period nears its end, CFS is again calling for “USDA to (1) Withdraw the proposed rule; (2) Release the [Environmental Impact Statement] EIS for public review and comment and be used as a basis for further rule-making; and (3) Suspend all new GE crop approvals until the above has been satisfactorily completed and unless and until GE crops are proven safe.”

Public comments are being accepted through Tuesday, March 17, 2009. You can view the full docket at Regulations.gov under Docket No. APHIS-2008-0023. Submit comments online or mail to: Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. For more background and a sample letter you can submit through the CFS website, click here. For more information on genetic engineering, visit Beyond Pesticides’ program page.


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