The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has extended the deadline for public input on proposed regulations changes for genetically engineered crops to June 29.
The proposed changes are intended to reflect transformations in genetic technology and implement new standards in relation to the importation, interstate movement and environmental release of certain genetically engineered organisms, as well as update the permitting process, said Andrea McNally, APHIS assistant director of public affairs.
"We're trying to ensure safe development and use of genetically engineered organisms," she said. "Our role is to ensure the safe introduction of new genetically engineered plants, their interstate movement, and increase transparency of the regulatory system, allow for flexibility in evaluating, and control plant pest and noxious weeds."
The APHIS has posted the proposed changes to its regulations and is accepting public comments at http://www.regulations.gov/fdmspublic/component/main?main=DocketDetail&d=APHIS-2008-0023.
Public input has been extended because a number of people requested additional time to prepare more responses. The call for public comment was first announced in 2004. Since then, thousands of comments have been logged and the deadline for public comment has been extended at least twice.
Genetically engineered crops are a controversial issue. Many organic producers say there is no way to contain contamination if the federal government is moving to release some GMOs and deregulate others.
"The premise of trying to create disease or drought resistant, or enhanced nutrition — those are issues that can be addressed within the soil; not with crop engineering," said Dan Kittredge, director of the Real Food Campaign, an arm of Remineralize the Earth, an organization that promotes nutrient-dense food through re-mineralization of soils.
The CCOF, an organic trade and political advocacy association, agrees and called on the USDA, the Federal Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency — all of which will review and implement any new regulations — to base their decisions on "sound science" instead of "industry-sponsored white papers," or practices that favor those who apply to produce genetically engineered crops.