The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is hosting a series of webinars to collect feedback on specific questions (see below) to inform how products of agricultural biotechnology – i.e., genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – should be regulated. Each of the following webinars will be the same, and are scheduled at the following times:
Wednesday, May 6, 6-9 pm EDT
Tuesday, May 12, 5-8 pm EDT
Wednesday, May 20, 4-7 pm EDT
Can’t make any of the webinars? You can provide written comments through June 22, 2015, at this link.
The USDA announced in March that it was ditching a 2008 proposal that would have updated regulations governing GMOs. We support this decision and encourage the rapid development of new and stronger regulations that aim to protect the environment, human health, and farmers and their markets from direct and indirect impacts resulting from genetically engineered (GE) crops.
When GE crops landed in our fields and grocery aisles, U.S. decision makers chose to rely on a patchwork of existing laws that predated the technology. This resulted in a mishmash of agency interpretations for regulating GMOs. This patchwork approach has left holes: the absence of mandated contamination prevention practices, post-market monitoring, and a mechanism for compensating those harmed by contamination, to name a few. Lacking a robust regulatory framework, the organic and broader non-GMO community has shouldered the costly burden of trying to protect their seed, crops, and markets, and dealing with contamination when it happens.
This is a historic opportunity to advocate for new and stronger GMO regulations.
We believe that stronger regulations can and should be implemented under the USDA’s current authority under the Plant Protection Act. APHIS should fill existing regulatory holes by:
- Implementing its noxious weed authority as provided by the Plant Protection Act
- Conducting independent analyses of potential socio-economic and environmental impacts
- Mandating contamination prevention practices on the part of users/owners of GE crops
- Creating a fair compensation mechanism for those harmed by contamination
- Strengthening tracking and oversight of experimental field trials
- Establishing a post-commercialization monitoring system of GE products
Questions to be covered in each webinar:
- Should APHIS regulate based on the characteristics of biotechnology products and the potential risks they may pose, or by the process by which they were created? In either case, what criteria should be used to determine what APHIS regulates? Are there products and processes APHIS should not regulate?
- The Plant Protection Act gives APHIS the authority to protect plant health through regulatory programs. APHIS has implemented the plant pest authority as part of their biotechnology regulations. Should APHIS add noxious weed provisions to their to biotechnology regulations and if so, how? What protection goals should APHIS consider?
- Are there legal authorities given to USDA outside the Plant Protection Act that APHIS should examine to regulate or oversee the products of biotechnology? What are they, and how would they be used?
- What non-regulatory solutions or policy alternatives could or should be considered to complement APHIS’s regulatory program?