At the end of the Clinton Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) attempted to issue regulations concerning genetically engineered crops, including modifications recommended by the National Academy of Sciences in 2000. Ultimately, those regulations were not issued. The EPA has the primary responsibility for regulating plants genetically engineered to contain pesticidal substances, such as Bt crops like StarLink. It does so on the basis of a broad interpretation of the Federal Fungicide, Insecticide and Rodenticide Act and by following regulations proposed in 1994, but never finalized. In a letter to the EPA, four consumer and environmental organizations urged the EPA to finalize regulations regarding plants engineered to contain pesticidal substances. The letter stated:
“The current absence of formal regulations undermines public confidence in biotechnology and in the Agency’s scrutiny. That absence prevents the Agency from developing guidelines that clearly spell out, both for the public and industry, the standards that EPA uses to evaluate the human and environmental safety of genetically engineered crops.”
In addition, Doug Gurian-Sherman, Co-Director of the Biotechnology Project at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said, “The lack of formal regulations has prevented the EPA from developing detailed guidelines on human-safety and environmental testing. It’s no wonder that the public has qualms about the safety of these controversial crops. The public deserves strong, sensible regulations, and the Bush Administration should publish them promptly.”
“The final draft regulations are a big improvement over the 1994 version that the EPA has been following,” Gurian-Sherman added. “They would, among other things, require EPA to regulate crops protected from viruses, which the EPA exempted from the 1994 proposal. Protection against viruses is one of the most promising and proven uses of biotech crops, but carries possible environmental risks. The National Academy of Sciences recommended that EPA not exempt virus resistance and two other categories of biotech crops from regulation. It is essential that EPA not exempt such crops.”
The groups that cosigned the letter are Center for Science in the Public Interest, Consumer Federation of America, Environmental Defense, and Union of Concerned Scientists.