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Organic Consumers Association

USDA Admits GMO Contamination is Inevitable

  • USDA: "GMO contamination happens"
    By Ken Roseboro
    The Organic & Non-GMO Report, February 22, 2009
    Straight to the Source

Since 2000, there have been six known incidents of unapproved genetically
modified corn and rice entering the US food supply or exports.

Common sense would seem to dictate that the US Department of Agriculture's
Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) would want to tighten its
oversight of GM crops and force biotechnology companies to make sure their
unapproved GMOs stay out of Americans' corn flakes.

This is exactly what the Government Accounting Office (GAO) called for.
Following the most recent contamination incident involving an unapproved GM
cotton from Monsanto mixing with conventional cotton, GAO called for more
oversight and coordination among federal agencies‹attention USDA‹to prevent
unapproved GMOs from getting into the food supply.

Iowa Senator Tom Harkin said, "When unapproved genetically engineered crops
are detected in the food and feed supply, food safety concerns rise, markets
are disrupted and consumer confidence falls."

"Lessen the regulatory burden"

Unbelievably, USDA¹s has been to propose less oversight, wanting to "lessen
the regulatory burden" on biotechnology companies, to quote APHIS
spokeswoman, Rachel Iadicicco.

Unfortunately, the government's track record of lessening the regulatory
burden does not inspire much confidence, as demonstrated by the recent
collapse of major Wall Street banks.

This has not dissuaded the USDA. In fact, USDA states that in some cases it
doesn't want to do anything when unapproved GMOs end up in our food.

APHIS's plan states that "a low level presence of [GM] plant materials in
seeds or grain may not be cause for agency remedial action," saying such
incidents will be evaluated on a "case-by-case basis" and may be
"non-actionable."

Basically, USDA is saying that GMO contamination happens, so we might as
well let it happen.

Does that mean that when some GM corn, which contains genes from some
unclassified organism found 20,000 leagues beneath the sea (see Syngenta¹s
new GM ethanol corn), gets into someone¹s taco shell and causes anaphylactic
shock that USDA will consider it "non-actionable?" I would hope not.

"Serious abdication of responsibility"

The Union of Concerned Scientists lambasted the USDA¹s proposed rulemaking
as "a serious abdication of its responsibility."
Biotechnology companies are obviously pleased that USDA wants to lessen
their regulatory burden, allowing them to avoid responsibility for
contaminating the food supply. Monsanto, whose unapproved GM cotton recently
got mixed with conventional cotton, expressed its full support of the new
rules. A spokesman for Syngenta, which in March 2005 revealed that it had
"inadvertently" sold an unapproved GM corn for three years, said that it was
"appropriate to establish science-based criteria by which regulated material
would be considered 'not-actionable' by the agency."

APHIS's new GMO regulations were proposed in the waning days of the Bush
Administration. Hopefully, the Obama Administration will ditch these
proposals and tighten the "regulatory burden" on companies who should be
held accountable if their GMOs contaminate the food supply.

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