Washington, D.C.—Center for Food Safety (CFS) condemns the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) revised regulations governing genetically engineered (GE) organisms (commonly referred to as GMOs). USDA released an unofficial version of the new regulations on its website yesterday, announcing that the regulations will be officially published in the Federal Register on Monday, May 18, 2020.
Under the newly released regulations, the overwhelming majority of GE plant trials would not have to be reported to USDA, or have their risks analyzed before being allowed to go to market. New GMO experiments could be conducted without USDA involvement or any measures to prevent genetic drift to neighboring crops. Rather than mandating stricter monitoring of open-air GE experiments, USDA's new proposal instead abdicates government responsibility, and in most cases leaves it up to the chemical companies—like Monsanto/Bayer and Dow—to self-police their new GE experiments.
"While revisions to USDA's regulations—first drafted in 1987—are necessary in order to ensure that the regulatory scheme adequately addresses the harms associated with current GE technology, the new regulations finalized by USDA, paradoxically named the SECURE rule, are anything but secure," stated Sylvia Wu, senior attorney at Center for Food Safety. "Instead of fixing long-standing deficiencies and strengthening the regulatory system to guarantee proper oversight of new GE technologies and their associated risks, the revised regulations dramatically scale back USDA's regulatory authority, leaving most GMOs unregulated."
CFS has consistently called on USDA to fulfill its mission of protecting U.S. agriculture by establishing safeguards against the harms of GE technology, such as GMO contamination of traditional crops, the creation of pesticide-resistant "superweeds," and massive increases in pesticides from GMO plants engineered to be immune to them. CFS delivered these messages in comprehensive, science-based comments as a response to USDA's proposed regulation in August 2019, but the final regulation continues to suffer from the deficiencies alluded to above, and does not protect farmers, the public, or the environment from the risks posed by GE crops.