The Center for Food Safety (‘The Center’) joined a collection of top public interest groups today at the National Press Club to voice collective concern over the recently passed House Agriculture Committee 2012 farm bill, which reported out of committee with several agricultural biotech industry-promoting riders included. The groups participating in the event included Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council, Defenders of Wildlife, the Humane Society of the United States, Oxfam America and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.
Speaking to journalists today, the Center’s regulatory policy analyst, Colin O’Neil provided the following statement:
"Good morning colleagues and members of the media. My name is Colin O’Neil and I’m the regulatory policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, a non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy organization established in 1997 for the purpose of challenging harmful food production technologies and promoting sustainable alternatives.
"I join my colleagues here today to draw attention to the latest in an alarming trend of dangerous policy riders to be included in must-pass legislation.
"Of paramount concern to those of us interested in the safety, protection and preservation of a healthy, sustainable U.S. food supply is a suite of industry-friendly riders — Section 10011, 10013, and 10014 — buried in the House Farm Bill that was reported out of committee last week. Together, they seek to severely weaken the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) oversight of genetically engineered (GE) crops and fundamentally bypass science-based review and liability.
"In short, these riders have the potential to completely eliminate the critical role played by our most important environmental laws. They unreasonably pressure USDA with impossible deadlines for analysis and decision, while at the same time withhold funds to conduct necessary environmental reviews and limit the regulatory authority of other agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). These riders create multiple backdoor approval mechanisms that would allow for the premature commercialization of untested biotech traits to enter our food system. Insulated from pushback, the industry riders also force USDA to adopt a controversial policy that would for the first time set allowable levels of GE contamination in crops and foods. It’s an unprecedented and dangerous path that is being carved out.
"If passed, these regressive riders would eliminate vital USDA safeguards that are currently protecting American farmers and the nation’s food supply. USDA would be ill-equipped and potentially incapable of preventing costly contamination episodes, such as the Starlink corn and Liberty Link rice fiascos, which have cost American farmers billions of dollars in losses and can damage vital U.S. export markets."