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Oregon Task Force Grills Federal GMO Regulators

For related articles and information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Oregon News page.

An Oregon task force studying genetically modified crops and food grilled federal regulators at its meeting Thursday, but didn't get a lot of answers.

Ivan Maluski, director of Friends of Family Farmers, wanted to know whether federal law prohibits states from regulating genetically modified crops.

Neither the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency nor the U.S. Department of Agriculture was able to answer.

"That really is a legal question," said Mike Firko, deputy administrator of USDA's biotechnology regulatory services.

Organic seed grower Frank Morton asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration whether the herbicide Roundup remains on food from Roundup-Ready crops.

"That would be a better question for EPA," he was told. "That wouldn't be us in terms of the safety."

Group members expressed frustration that a number of federal agencies regulate genetically modified crops and food, with little apparent coordination.

"Different agencies have a different piece of the puzzle," Maluski said. "They don't always overlap very well and I feel it leaves gaps."

There also was concern that only crops modified using recombinant DNA techniques are regulated.

"There's other stuff happening out there in the breeding world that is doing things with similar outcomes that is not under regulatory authority," Oregon Department of Agriculture Director Katy Coba said.

That includes using radiation and chemicals to modify plant genes.

The meeting Thursday was the group's sixth, and the last where it explored a series topics related to genetic engineering, including environmental, economic and social impacts; grower and consumer choice; coexistence; and regulation.

Now, it will try to identify key issues for the state, as well as areas of agreement and disagreement.