As you may have read, both the House Farm Bill and Agriculture Appropriations bills were put on hold as Congress counted down the days until the beginning of their August recess on Friday. Unfortunately, the failure to pass either of these bills through the House means the fate of the biotech riders could be decided during secretive “closed door” negotiations between a handful of Representatives and Senators, who will try to strike a deal while the rest of Congress is away during the recess.
Together, these industry-promoting “riders” to the House Agriculture Appropriations Bill and the House Agriculture Committee’s version of the Farm Bill seek to override judicial review of GE crops found to have been approved illegally, gut USDA analysis requirements, create a forced backdoor approval of “Agent Orange” corn and other GE crops and to compel a first-ever policy for allowable levels of transgenic contamination in America’s crops and food supply.
In the past half-dozen years, courts and government reports have sharply criticized USDA’s oversight of GE crops as lacking. Numerous courts have held the agency’s approvals failed to comply with our environmental laws. In response, rather than responsibly improving its oversight, the industry instead seeks to change the rules. The Farm Bill and Appropriations riders together would eliminate meaningful review of these novel crops, forcing hasty approvals in advancing the chemical industry’s interests in selling their products.
Though wrapped in a “farmer-friendly” package, the “farmer assurance provision” inserted into the House Agriculture Appropriations Bill is simply a biotech industry ploy to continue to plant GE crops even when a court of law has found they were approved illegally. Further, it forces USDA to approve permits for such continued planting immediately, putting industry completely in charge by allowing for a “back door approval” mechanism.
Farm Bill Riders
The secret bombs deliberately buried in the House Agriculture Committee’s voluminous discussion draft of the 2012 Farm Bill represent serious assaults on our fundamental safeguards and would negatively impact farmers, the environment and public health across America., These significant changes to GE crop regulation will counter the gains that have been made to protect our food supply and the farmers who grow it.
Taken together, these Farm Bill riders (Sections 10011, 10013 and 10014) would:
- Outlaw any review of GE crops’ impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), or any other environmental law, or by any other agency other than USDA. For example, harm to protected species could occur without any input from our expert wildlife agencies.
- Weaken the remaining review by USDA under the Plant Protection Act (PPA),, and structure it so as to allow USDA to ignore many GE crop harms.
- Force the backdoor approval of GE crops, even if USDA has not reviewed and approved them, through unreasonably short deadlines, which, if not met by the agency, would default to immediate approval and commercialization. The provisions would also bar any agency funds be spent on impacts analysis beyond the riders’ narrow and time-forced approval.
- Codify a dangerous national policy of allowing transgenic contamination in crops and foods, risking loss of GE-sensitive domestic and export markets and loss of biodiversity.
- Limit EPA’s oversight of biotech crops engineered to produce or contain a pesticide by forcing the agency to choose the least burdensome choice for industry, regardless of environmental consequences.
American agriculture is at a crossroads. Far from moving closer to a safer, healthier and better regulated food supply, this is an attempted shift away from those principles – delivering our regulatory and decision-making powers over U.S. agriculture into the hands of industry.