CSPI Urges Tougher Oversight of GE Foods in Farm Bill
Provisions Would Limit USDA's Environmental Analysis
November 2, 2012
The nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest is urging members of the House not to include certain provisions in the Farm Bill that would limit the government's authority to conduct environmental analyses of genetically engineered crops.
The bill language at issue would specifically limit the U.S. Department of Agriculture's regulatory review to specific issues, such as whether the engineered crops could act as "plant pests"—a scenario CSPI says is not supported by science. Instead, Congress should write stand-alone legislation that would give USDA specific regulatory authority over genetically engineered crops and consider the full range of actual potential problems with such crops, such as the development of weeds or insects that were resistant to the crops’ technology, and the impact of gene flow to weedy relatives.
"Why would Congress add to the public's skepticism of genetically engineered crops by letting new varieties go to market before a thorough analysis of their potential environmental impact?" asked Greg Jaffe, director of CSPI's biotechnology project. "As written, these provisions would handcuff USDA and prevent it from eliminating or managing potential environmental harm that might be caused by these products."
In a letter to agriculture committee Chairman Frank D. Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN), Jaffe wrote that the current regulatory process at USDA is not only too slow, but does not even focus on the most important risks of genetically engineered crops. CSPI believes that foods made from currently marketed genetically engineered crops are safe to eat, and that with effective oversight the crops' environmental impact could be managed safely. But CSPI also supports legislation that would require mandatory pre-market approval of genetically engineered crops before they enter our food supply—authority government regulators at FDA still lack.