How USDA May Have Deregulated All GM Crops

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Did language from a USDA decision late last Friday open the genetically modified floodgates?

When USDA announced last Friday that they were deregulating a genetically modified Kentucky bluegrass it didn’t quite sounds like food news, but according to analysis at Mother Jones, what they actually may have done was deregulate all genetically modified crops.

Wait, what?

Scotts (makers of Miracle Gro and distributors for Monsanto RoundUp) petitioned USDA to approve the genetically engineered grass, which is glyphosate resistant. Glyphosate, or Monsanto RoundUp, is a pesticide used on many genetically modified crops and is linked to health problems including birth defects.

So, what does this have to do with food? Everything. The savvy folks at Mother Jones noticed this little gem buried in the USDA response to Scotts’ request for approval:

In its July 1 response, the USDA agreed: “[N]one of the organisms used in generating this genetically engineered (GE) glyophosphate tolerant Kentucky bluegrass…are considered to be plant pests,” so Roundup Ready bluegrass “does not meet the definition of a ‘regulated article’ and is not subject” to the Plant Protection Act. In other words, go forth and multiply.

What does this mean? It sets the precedent that if a genetically engineered plant is not considered a “plant pest” (aka: a weed), it doesn’t need to be regulated.

Like alfalfa, grass cross-pollinates like mad. Because it spreads so easily, The Center for Food Safety had petitioned to have the plant treated like a weed, but USDA shot that down by reasoning that GM grass is no less a weed than regular grass, which people plant on purpose all the time. As Mother Jones points out:

That’s highly debatable, since anyone who wants to address weed problems from conventional bluegrass can turn to Roundup, the nation’s most-used herbicide, whereas dealing with rogue Roundup Ready bluegrass means resorting to chemicals far more toxic

USDA may have essentially changed the rules, deregulating GM crops and giving the public and advocacy groups like The Center for Food Safety no legal recourse for challenging them.

What You Can Do

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is one of the major opponents to GMOs, so giving them your support can help them fight this battle.

In the meantime, we can fight for the right to know if the products we’re buying contain genetically modified ingredients.

CFS also launched a Truth in Labeling campaign, demanding that GM foods be labeled. You can donate to support their cause. They’ve delivered a petition to the FDA asking for truth in labeling. Millions Against Monsanto makes it easy to send a letter to your grocer asking them to label GM foods.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by josefstuefer

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