With more than 15,000 comments logged in the initial comment period, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is extending its call for input an additional 60 days until March 17, regarding revisions to genetically engineered crop regulations.
The proposed changes have to do with the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms. In a Jan. 15 news release, APHIS said it is seeking more detailed responses about, among other things, which genetically engineered organisms should be included or excluded from the regulations; the proposal to replace the existing notification procedure with a permitting process; and specific suggestions for providing appropriate protection based on the risk of genetically engineered crops that produce pharmaceutical and industrial compounds.
In an Oct. 20, 2008, letter addressed to former Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer, a group of farm organizations urged APHIS to extend the comment period an additional 120 days. The call was answered, albeit a bit late, said Bill Wenzel, director of the Farmer to Farmer Campaign on Genetic Engineering. "USDA did not extend the comment period until almost two months after the deadline for submittal," Wenzel said.
The farm groups' letter said, "The regulation of agricultural biotechnology has had a significant impact on farmers and their livelihoods which must be addressed in this Docket." The letter cited "systematic failures in the management and oversight of regulated crop field trials," which led to genetically modified long grain rice unapproved for human consumption entering the food supply in 2006.
The letter also points to "significant shortcomings with USDA's deregulation process," as evidenced by the case of Monsanto's Roundup Ready Alfalfa, in which USDA approved this genetically engineered crop variety for commercial use before a federal district court ordered the crop re-regulated and an Environmental Impact Statement performed.
To view the proposed regulations and comments, go to www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2008-0023