Wait, Did the USDA Just Deregulate All New Genetically Modified Crops?

In a surprise move, the agency green-lights Roundup Ready lawn grass—and perhaps much, much more.

By Tom Philpott
Mother Jones

It’s a hoary bureaucratic trick, making a controversial announcement on the Friday afternoon before a long weekend, when most people are daydreaming about what beer to buy on the way home from work, or are checking movie times online. But that’s precisely what the US Department of Agriculture pulled last Friday.

In an innocuous-sounding press release [1] titled “USDA Responds to Regulation Requests Regarding Kentucky Bluegrass,” agency officials announced their decision not to regulate a “Roundup Ready” strain of Kentucky bluegrass—that is, a strain genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate, Monsanto’s widely used herbicide, which we know as Roundup. The maker of the novel grass seed, Scotts Miracle Gro, is now free to sell it far and wide. So you’ll no doubt be seeing Roundup Ready bluegrass blanketing lawns and golf courses near you—and watching anal neighbors and groundskeepers literally dousing the grass in weed killer without fear of harming a single precious blade.

Which is worrisome enough. But even more worrisome is the way this particular product was approved. According to Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food and Environment Program, the documents released by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) along with the announcement portend a major change in how the feds will deal with genetically modified crops.

Notably, given the already-lax regulatory regime governing GMOs (genetically modified organisms, click here [2] for a primer), APHIS seems to be ramping down oversight to the point where it is essentially meaningless. The new regime corresponding with the bluegrass announcement would “drastically weaken USDA’s regulation,” Gurian-Sherman told me. “This is perhaps the most serious change in US regs for [genetically modified] crops for many years.”

Understanding why requires a brief history of the US government’s twisted attempts to regulate GMOs. Since the Reagan days, federal regulatory efforts have been governed by what’s known as the Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology. Despite its name, the Coordinated Framework amounts to a porous hodgepodge of regulations based on the idea that overseeing GMOs required no new laws—that the novel technology could be effectively regulated under already-existing code.

The new regime laid out in the bluegrass announcement would “drastically weaken USDA’s regulation” of genetically modified crops.

Long story short, it means that the USDA theoretically regulates new GMO crops the same way it would regulate, say, a backyard gardener’s new crossbred squash variety. Which is to say, it really doesn’t. But that’s absurd. GM crops pose different environmental threats than their nonmodified counterparts. The most famous example involves the rapid rise of Roundup Ready corn, soy, and cotton, which were introduced in the mid-late 1990s and now blanket tens of millions of acres of US farmland. Spraying all of that acreage every year with a single herbicide has given rise to a plague of Roundup-resistant “superweeds,” [3] forcing farmers to apply more and more Roundup [4] and also resort to other, far-more-toxic products. [5] Crops that aren’t engineered to withstand an herbicide could never have created such a vexation.

Read more at Mother Jones

12 responses to “Wait, Did the USDA Just Deregulate All New Genetically Modified Crops?

  1. Where are the lawyers fighting back against the corporate takeover of farmland? Where are the lawyers for the good guys? Cause companies like Monsanto are definitely bad guys.

  2. In order to be an immaculate member of a flock of sheep, one must above all be a sheep oneself (management at the USDA).
    Albert Einstein

  3. ginann et al. Fight back against the Fascists of the New World Order,
    who are seeking to enslave us by controlling the food supply and limiting our choices, and eliminating our access to food supplements, and promoting the continual pollution of the environment by favoring industrial agriculture in pursuing their goal of overall population reduction. Get on the mailing list of the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund here: http://www.ftcldf.org/mailinglist.htm Also support the work of the Institute for Responsible Technology at: http://www.responsibletechnology.org/resources/download-brochures
    This all falls under the concept of the UN’s Agenda 21 and its goal of the eventual elimination of private property. Go here: http://www.freedomadvocates.org/
    Also, check the work of the Natural Solutions Foundation at:
    http://www.healthfreedomusa.org/?p=9875

  4. Pingback: Wait, Did the USDA Just Deregulate All New Genetically Modified Crops? | discloser

  5. Bad chit, mon.

  6. Something about 21/12/2012 springs readily to mind here. Yet the Mayan’s don’t believe in the end of time, just a cycle of time so where the f**k do we find ourselves when ‘the end of time’ as predicted finally arrives? I suspect that the Mayan’s know more than they claimed. I bet they already knew about Monsanto and the corporations.
    Somehow I don’t see a way around this except for an all out war. And my friends, I suspect that that is exactly what they want. One helluva way to reduce the global population.

  7. Pingback: The Progressive Mind » Wait, Did the USDA Just Deregulate All New Genetically Modified Crops? | Food Freedom

  8. The U.S. population has historically placed a considerable degree of trust in the regulatory oversight provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and its agencies. There is little tradition of people having a close relationship with their food, with the overwhelming majority of people having bought their food in supermarkets for years. But the 2003 survey by the Pew Research Center showed that even in the U.S., 55% see GM food as “bad” food. A 2010 survey found that over one third of U.S. consumers were very or extremely concerned about GM food, a 3% reduction from 2008.

  9. The recent complete cave-in on the issue of GMO Alfalfa regulation – basically giving Monsanto and Forge complete freedom in the marketplace, is a serious blow to natural foods and American freedom to choose organic foods over so-called “frankenfoods.” Vilsack’s previous close ties to Monsanto may well be the reason of this regrettable decision to release GMO Alfalfa without regulation anywhere inside the USA.

  10. This never would have happened under the Bush Administration. Everything has been deregulated in the name of hope and change. Check out Monsanto’s contribution to Obama Biden 2008 campaign.

    Just send your children to die in Libya or wherever the next phase of the endless war is staged, don’t worry yourself about GMO!!

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