Center for Food Safety (CFS) has filed an amended complaint in their ongoing litigation challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “bioengineered” (more commonly known as “genetically engineered”) food labeling rule, challenging the law’s prohibition on states’ labeling of genetically modified seeds. The new filing adds claims challenging the part of the “bioengineered foods” rule that will leave genetically engineered seeds unlabeled, preventing consumers and farmers from knowing if seeds are genetically modified.
“Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, including whether it is genetically engineered or not. That’s what this case is fundamentally about: meaningful labeling,” said George Kimbrell, CFS legal director and counsel in the case. “The same goes for seeds. The decision takes away states’ rights to label seeds, while offering absolutely nothing in return.”
CFS filed the 120-page lawsuit in late July 2020. The provisions then-challenged covered the inadequacies of the law as it relates to food labeling; the new amendment adds the seed labeling aspect.
Now, under the Trump administration’s “free-for-all” approach to regulation, the USDA wants to let companies like Monsanto-Bayer, DowDupont and Syngenta (now owned by ChemChina) “regulate” their own genetically engineered products.
TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA to do its job: protect consumers, not the biotech industry!
From the department of “you can’t make this stuff up,” the USDA calls its new proposed rule for reviewing and approving GMOs “Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient,” or “SECURE” for short.
If this new rule is allowed to take effect, biotech companies will for sure be more secure—secure in the fact that they will be allowed to unleash any genetically engineered organism into the environment or into the food system—with no oversight, no independent testing and no accountability.
The USDA’s proposed rule follows Trump’s executive order, issued in June, calling for “modernizing the regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology products.” Which is just shorthand for protecting corporate profits at the expense of human health and the environment.
If passed, “SECURE” will also be a disaster for organic farmers, whose organic certification—and livelihoods—will bethreatened even further by contamination of their non-GMO, organic crops when GMO seeds “drift” into their fields.
Under USDA’s proposed “no-regulation rule,” almost every GMO would be exempt from regulation. And biotech companies would be the ones to decide whether or not their frankenfoods are “safe.”
As Dr. Allison A. Snow, professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University, wrote to the New York Times in 2015:
Asserting that biotech is safe is like saying that electricity is safe. Genetic engineering can be used safely or stupidly. Scientists, corporations and government agencies try to avoid the latter, and regulators need strong scientific data to evaluate risks.
Snow had this to say to a National Geographic reporter:
“Every transgenic organism brings with it a different set of potential risks and benefits,” says Snow. “Each needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. But right now only one percent of USDA biotech research money goes to risk assessment.”
In other words, we need more—not less—regulation of GMOs, especially in the rapidly changing era of new “gene-editing” technologies such as CRISPR and RNA interference (RNAi).
As Snow said, even before the USDA’s new proposed plan to hand over the regulation of GMOs to biotech corporations:
“We’ve let the cat out of the bag before we have real data, and there’s no calling it back.”
Given the coordinated effort and relentless push by the biotech industry and the USDA to deregulate, it may also be too late to “call back” this latest proposed rule. But try we must.
The organic food movement suffered a major setback recently, when the US National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted in favor of allowing hydroponically-grown products to receive the “organic” label. This decision should not have come as a surprise to those who have watched the organic movement steadily taken over by big agribusiness – a process that began in 1990 when Congress required the USDA to create a single set of national standards that would define the meaning of “organic”.