GroundTruth Blog

Flood Advisory! GE seeds clog pipeline

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by Marcia Ishii-Eiteman

Two weeks ago, while many Americans were focused on early July barbeques and fireworks, the pipeline of genetically engineered crops awaiting USDA approval suddenly swelled to bursting.

With public opposition to GE foods and crops growing by leaps and bounds (and Prop 37 — CA’s ballot initiative to label GE foods — garnering unprecedented popular support), the Big 6 pesticide corporations are rushing to quickly ram a dozen new GE crops through the pipeline. Nine of them are engineered for use with toxic herbicides.

Back in December, when Dow quietly inserted its insidious 2,4-D corn into the USDA regulatory process, we warned that this was the first in an onslaught of new and very damaging industry products that would be coming our way: seeds designed by the Big 6 to be used with increasingly toxic weedkillers.

Thousands of you joined me — along with 370,000 family farmers, workers, doctors, nurses and moms and dads around the country — in standing up to Dow and saying “No” to putting corporate profit over the health and livelihood of Americans.

Dirty (GE) Dozen

PAN coined the phrase “Dirty Dozen” back in the 1980s to describe our founding campaign against the worst pesticides of the day. Thirty years later, many of these are now banned around the world. But as the Big 6 pesticide corporations seek other means to drive up pesticide sales, we now have a new Dirty Dozen to battle: insecticidal and herbicide-tolerant GE seeds.

The USDA’s official register now lists 12 proposed GE crops under consideration (on top of 2,4-D corn), proposed by Dow, Monsanto, DuPont (Pioneer), Bayer, Syngenta and BASF among others.

Nine of the new GE crops in the pipeline will be reviewed under USDA’s newly devised “fast-track” regulatory process, which aims to reduce approval time for GE crops from the current average of three years (not fast enough for industry!) to just over a year. These include corn, soybean and canola engineered to be resistant to a suite of herbicides including 2,4-D, glyphosate, glufosinate and imidazolinone. (Rather ridiculously, one of the GE crops —an apple — has actually been engineered to turn less brown when cut. Talk about spurious endeavors!)

Rounding out the dozen, the remaining three GE crops under consideration include a 2,4-D soybean from Dow (described by Tom Philpott as “the gnarliest soybean ever”), a soybean that Bayer has engineered to be used with the cancer-causing herbicide isoxaflutole, and an insecticidal corn from Syngenta. These crops are in the final stages of review under USDA’s old regulatory process, which means that the time to express our strong opposition to them is right now.

USDA is accepting public comment on each of the 12 GE crops through September 11. Stay tuned for upcoming PAN Alerts on how to oppose the Dirty GE Dozen as a whole.

Biotech riders trample science and courts

As if the swollen pipeline of a dozen new GE seeds weren’t bad enough, industry allies in Congress are simultaneously threatening sweeping policy changes that would override any semblance of objective scientific and judicial review. Buried deep in thousands of pages of the Farm Bill — signed off on by the House Agricultural Committee — are three riders (Sec. 10011, 10013, and 10014). These proposals would — if approved — gut the USDA’s already weak regulatory process for GE seeds.

As explained in a July 10 letter to House Agriculture Committee leadership signed by PAN and 40 other organizations, these riders provide multiple mechanisms for fast-tracking backdoor approval of GE crops. They also sidestep any analysis of the health, economic, livelihood and other real-life impacts of GE crops on our farms and communities, and would establish a highly controversial national policy of allowing transgenic contamination of our crops and foods.

A fourth rider in the House Agricultural Appropriations Bill would enable USDA to permit continued planting of GE crops, even when a court of law has ruled that such crops were approved illegally.

Demand democracy

The cynicism with which House representatives appear ready to throw our judicial system under the bus, dismantle the principle of separation of powers established in our constitution, and abandon rigorous scientific review — all for the sake of fast-tracking industry's latest GE products — is simply stunning.

Take action » Urge your Representative to reject the proposed biotech riders, stand up to pressure from the Big 6 pesticide corporations and defend our precious democracy.

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's blog

is PAN's Senior Scientist and Director of the Grassroots Science Program. Follow @MarciaIshii

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