I've felt for some time that the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Monsanto are a little too buddy-buddy in the regulation sandbox. Certainly the government agency has taken an "innocent until proven guilty" stance on GE alfalfa, GE salmon and the environmental threats of Roundup herbicide.
This week, when I read that the USDA has decided to let the biotech seed giant perform its own environmental impact studies before deregulating novel seed varieties, it felt like I and every other conscious consumer received a giant sand-crusted mud ball to the face. Are we talking about the Monsanto? Is there's some other company that's had the misfortune of trade marking a similar sounding name? Isn't there a pinto bean grower with the name Mono Santo? Nope.
Does the USDA actually expect Monsanto, the company that's been caught with its pants down numerous times taking a toxic-sludge dump in our rivers and oceans, the company responsible for the creation of superweeds, to honestly evaluate how their products and practices are raping the planet? Of course, the biotech industry thinks this decision is just great! Kren Batra of the Biotechnology Industry Organization told the Oregon-based ag journal Captial Press that, the program will likely speed up the registration process for GMO crops and make the USDA's approach less vulnerable to legal challenges. Egad!
Certainly Batra is referring to that pesky Federal Judge Jeffrey White who issued a rebuke in August to the USDA regarding its practice for approving new genetically modified seeds. He ruled that seed deregulation without first determining potential environmental impact, aside from being quite obviously irresponsible, violates the National Environmental Policy Act. The USDA, an agency that has the primary purpose of ensuring our food is safe, nutritious and sustainable, has decided to partner up with Monsanto (a company neither safe, nutritious nor sustainable) and help them skirt this inconvenient decision by giving them the keys to the agro car. This means, without much resistance on the environmental front, Monsanto can now potentially deregulate any seed they please.
This all sounds to me like we've moved one step closer to allowing GM wheat, which if deregulated would be catastrophic for not only the environment but consumers, organic farmers and the economy.
It's time for the organic industry to jump in the sandbox and start slinging a little dirt.