The USDA has started a disgraceful new program that makes it even easier for genetically engineered organisms to become deregulated—by having the corporations themselves provide all the documentation and analysis! A new Action Alert.
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is responsible for granting or denying petitions from companies to deregulate genetically engineered organisms. Now APHIS has announced a two-year program called the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Pilot Project. It is designed to be another instance of the foxes guarding the henhouse, with conflicts of interest built into every step of the process.
Currently, APHIS prepares an Environmental Assessment (EA) or an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to show what impact a GE food or organism might have on the environment, to help determine whether it should be regulated or not. The petitioner requesting deregulated status (Monsanto, for example) has to submit specific information, but it is up to the APHIS to prepare the environmental documents and analyze all the info.
Under this new program, the petitioners will submit the environmental documents and analysis themselves! The Monsantos of the world can give the USDA all the environmental “analysis” necessary to support their own case—removing objectivity entirely from the process. It’s rather like the prosecution accepting the evidence presented by a defense attorney’s highly paid expert witness, instead of coming up with one’s own expert testimony.
But it doesn’t stop there. Instead of APHIS taking the analysis and developing an EA or EIS, an outside contractor will prepare the EIS—but the petitioner will provide the funds for it. This is another outrageous conflict of interest: petitioners will be providing the funds to support their own studies to determine the outcome of their own case. Would we trust a sugar company to fund a report on whether sugar causes cavities in teeth?
In previous issues we have reported on USDA’s push to deregulate genetically engineered organisms. Now they are considering a program that will make it worse—ensuring that corporate interests will continue to win out over consumer information and choice. USDA is setting up a process that will make deregulation even easier—almost certainly in anticipation of a whole slew of petitions to come. The agency’s policies have already encouraged many companies to petition for non-regulated status for their GE products.
Monsanto has created a soybean oil genetically engineered to contain stearidonic acid (SDA), one of the omega-3 acids, as an alternative to fish oil. Last year, after a petition from Monsanto, the FDA gave the oil Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) status. Now Monsanto just needs permission from USDA to grow this GE soybean in open fields—which, if the trend holds up, will probably be granted.
In China, scientists have genetically engineered cows to produce “human” milk. With the USDA’s outrageous GE policies, is this something we can expect in the US soon?
Action Alert! Please contact APHIS and tell them the new pilot program creates undeniable and unconscionable conflicts of interest. Besides, the agency didn’t even give the public an opportunity to comment on it, which suggests a certain unwillingness to be taken to task by health-conscious American consumers!
TO SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO THE APHIS
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