To Modify Biotech Policies
(Beyond Pesticides, January 27, 2004) On January 22, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced plans to revise regulations regarding biotechnology in the U.S., for the first time examining environmental impact, according to the Washington Post. While the department is looking to update policies, the process will not necessarily result in tighter restrictions.
Proposed changes include an expansion of the department's regulatory authority to include certain plants and insects not previously covered, as well as an overhaul of the system for granting permits to conduct GE field tests. The new system would group organisms into tiers based on potential risk.
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) will prepare an environmental impact statement evaluating the current biotechnology regulations along with the possible regulation changes, with public comment on the scope of the impact statement due by March 23, 2004. The proposed rules can be viewed at http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2004_register&docid=fr23ja04-11.pdf.
Environmentalists are cautiously hopeful of the announcement. Joseph Mendelson, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, said he worries that the reform process may not result in tougher regulations if certain organisms are exempted from scrutiny. "The question is how responsive they will ultimately be. Will the meat be on the bones?" he stated.
There are a host of issues that concern environmentalists and others regarding biotechnology, including pollen drift; insect resistance, development of superweeds; harm to human health, wildlife and soil; and rights of farmers. For details, read 10 Reasons to Say No to Genetically Engineered Crops and Foods. More information is available from our Genetic Engineering Program Page.
To submit comments to USDA APHIS, send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. 03-031-2, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3C71, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238. If you use e-mail, address comments to mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments must be contained in the body the message; do not send attached files. Please include your name and address in the body of the message and use “Docket No. 03-031-2" on the subject line.