miércoles, noviembre 24, 2010

A Not Sweet Holiday Treat


USDA Proposing Interim planting of illegal, genetically engineered Sugar Beets: Tell USDA To Say No! Farmers and Consumers will be at risk!

In August, a Federal court ruled that USDA’s approval of genetically engineered (GE), “Roundup Ready” sugar beets was unlawful, concluding that USDA had failed to conduct an adequate analysis of the impacts of this crop on farmers and the environment, such as the biological contamination of non-GE crops with GE pollen. The Court made the biotech beets once again illegal to plant or sell until USDA completed a rigorous review of the potential impacts of the beets to farmers, the environment and the public and made a new decision whether to allow commercialization. USDA anticipates this assessment will be finished in 2012.

Now, under pressure from Monsanto and the sugar industry, USDA has proposed to allow the planting of GE beets again beginning next spring, before the agency completes its environmental assessment of the crop’s impacts.

This USDA proposal would allow commercialization to continue under the guise of field trial permits, which are only used for research. USDA’s actions are a "de facto" commercialization creating an end run around the need future approvals and assessments.

The USDA proposal includes new, unprecedented measures, claiming these will keep harms to farmers and the environment from occurring. But these are the same measures that the Federal Court refused to adopt in August when it announced GE beets were illegal under federal law, and they are the same measures the agency was charged with analyzing in its yet to be completed environmental impact statement

USDA, under the influence of the biotech industry, must not be allowed to circumvent environmental law and the opinion of the U.S. courts, or ignore farmer choice and public opinion. Tell USDA its illegal proposal must not be approved.

USDA has a comment period open only through December 6, 2010, so please send your comment today!

Sample letter:

Docket No. APHIS-2010-0047

Regulatory Analysis and Development

PPD, APHIS, Station 3A–03.8, 4700

River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD


RE: Docket No. APHIS-2010-0047

I am writing to strongly oppose USDA’s proposal to allow the planting and sale of (Docket No. APHIS-2010-0047) of genetically engineered, “roundup ready” sugar beets before the agency has completed the court-ordered review of that crop’s impacts.

USDA's proposal violate environmental laws that are meant to ensure that agencies analyze potential environmental and socioeconomic impacts before they take action, not allow those activities to continue under another name while they undertake that analysis. The proposal also violates the law because it allows commercialization under provisions meant only for research, making an end-run around actually making a commercial approval decision.

As a consumer I am harmed by the loss of my right to choose non-GE foods. The harm to me happens because the sugar made from biotech beets is made by a biotech production system that I know is harmful to the environment and farmers, regardless of the differences between biotech-derived sugar and other sugars. These harms include the risk of transgenic contamination of organic and non-GE crops, the creation of resistant “super weeds” from the overuse of Roundup, and the impacts of Roundup on the biodiversity and protected species. Allowing commercialization to continue will not only eliminate my choice to choose non-GE food, but it will prejudge the agency’s forgone conclusion.

USDA has proposed an unprecedented scheme with measures it claims will ensure harm such as transgenic contamination won’t happen. But, those measures have never been analyzed by our government, for any biotech crop. They are the same measures that the Federal Court refused to adopt in August of this year. These measures should not be adopted now, at least not without a full Environmental Impact Statement analyzing their efficacy.

Additionally, USDA's track record at overseeing biotech crops in field trials is abysmal, as numerous government reports have concluded (GAO 2008, USDA IG 2005). The failings of UDSA's field trial oversight have led to dozens of contaminations and billions of dollars in lost markets and businesses, such as with genetically engineered rice and corn. USDA’s actions belie its rhetoric of concern for non-GE crop growers, and continue to undermine its credibility. USDA refused to disclose to the public a major contamination episode that came to light just a few weeks ago when. c GE bentgrass was discovered to have contaminated at least 20 square miles in eastern Oregon. GE bentgrass is not commercially approved and the contamination is believed to have spread from a field trial that ended more than five years ago. Congress even required USDA to improve its oversight of field trials in the 2008 farm bill, an order USDA has ignored. Now USDA is claiming that its system of field trials is sufficient to contain an entire industry across the country. The measures should not be adopted at least without a full EIS.

The companies claiming economic harm from the failure to plant biotech beets in 2011 - Monsanto, Syngenta, and other agro-chemical giants - have not disclosed what conventional seed stock they have to plant if they cannot plant biotech beets. Any claims of economic harm to them are speculative and a result of their own gambling, since these companies have known since 2008 that they should plan to revert to conventional beets since it was likely biotech beets would again be illegal. Biotech beets are illegal and they threaten the environment through transgenic contamination and weed resistance and consumers by inhibiting the fundamental right to choose.


Paige Michele Tomaselli | ptomaselli@icta.org

Staff Attorney

Center for Food Safety

2601 Mission Street, Suite 803

San Francisco, CA 94110


(415) 826-2770 | fax (415) 826-0507

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