Natural Foods Merchandiser

GE crop oversight could get makeover

Government oversight of genetically engineered crops in the United States might get revamped, following the mid-July release of an environmental impact statement for proposed changes by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but critics say the new rules are not likely to be significantly more stringent.

The proposed changes include expanding the current two-tiered permitting system into multiple tiers, with the degree of confinement and oversight assigned being "risk-proportionate" to specific crops.

The proposed changes would expand regulatory oversight to include GE plants that have the potential to be noxious weeds, and plant parts from field tests that are not currently regulated. USDA's Biotechnology Regulatory Services is also considering changes to the deregulation process and a new system for handling mixing of GE products in commercial seeds and grains.

Craig Winters, president of nonprofit The Campaign, said he expects BRS will grandfather in many types of crops that have been allowed in the past, instead of making regulations more cautious. "If history is any guide, we can expect the industry to be allowed to slide more, rather than for regulations to get more teeth," Winters said.

Monsanto case against farmers struck down
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected four of Monsanto's patents related to genetically modified crops within the past six months after the GM seed giant filed dozens of patent infringement lawsuits against farmers for saving the company's seeds from season to season. The Public Patent Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at representing the public's interest in the patent system, filed requests with the patent office last fall, asking that four of Monsanto's patents be re-examined. By July 2007, all four had been rejected.


Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVIII/number 9/p. 25

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