With their tragic history on the environment and human health, should Corporate Agribusinesses really be able to regulate their own genetically modified crops?
This article first appeared in WORC’s quarterly newsletter the Western Organizing Review.
This summer, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), announced a proposed rule to give up their authority to regulate the development and introduction of genetically engineered (GE) crops (commonly known as GMOs). This would give giant agrochemical corporations such as Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta-ChemChina, and Dow-Dupont the power to regulate themselves. If the proposal is finalized, these corporations, who will profit by bringing GE seeds to market, will be in charge of determining whether or not their crops are risky and subject to oversight. The current oversight structure is inadequate and this proposed rule would make it even more ineffective, increasing the likelihood of field contamination, and perpetuating a flawed system of pushing GMOs onto consumers who don’t want them.
“Why would USDA, or anyone, trust GMO manufacturers? They’ve proven to be unable to play by the rules when it came to GE wheat, which turned up illegally in farmers’ fields. We need them to be regulated to protect the public interest.”
Joining with allies across the country, members in the WORC network submitted 121 comments to the USDA on their plan to roll back oversight of GE crops. Members urged USDA to:
- Strengthen rules and implement rigorous testing for all GE crops before they are introduced and planted into fields,
- Devote more attention to research on the economic, agricultural, environmental, and health impacts of GE crops, and
- Issue stiff fines and penalties for seed companies who illegally introduce GE crops without approval.
Western Colorado Alliance member and WORC Agriculture and Food Campaign Team Chair Wink Davis said, “Why would USDA, or anyone, trust GMO manufacturers? They’ve proven to be unable to play by the rules when it came to GE wheat, which turned up illegally in farmers’ fields. We need them to be regulated to protect the public interest.”
This isn’t the first time USDA has attempted to allow giant agribusiness corporations to self-regulate. In the past decade, USDA proposed rules to lift oversight of GE crops but because of public outcry, the rules were withdrawn. In this most recent rulemaking, 80 “stakeholders” were part of the process while the public was kept in the dark. This powergrab is another instance of corporations chipping away at democracy and expanding their control over our public institutions.
This powergrab is another instance of corporations chipping away at democracy and expanding their control over our public institutions.
With 75% of the global seed supply controlled by just ten corporations, it’s critical for the Trump Administration and the USDA to use their power to act as a check on corporate power, rather than a blank check for corporate greed. Wink added, “The USDA needs to work for family farms and ranches, not corporations.”
Although the comment period on the proposed rule has ended, the fight isn’t over. Next, APHIS must consider the comments that were submitted and prepare a final rule.
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