Sprouting

Provisions to the Farm Bill that could support speedy approval of genetically engineered foods have incited outrage among and activists concerned over food safety.

The measures, which could be approved by the House of Representatives this week, would diminish safety check systems for genetically modified crops that are developed to tolerate heavy doses of pesticides and herbicides and could make it even easier for multinational giant ag companies like Monsanto and Dow Chemical to receive approval on GMO crops.

One of the biggest concerns is a provision in the 2013 Agriculture Appropriation bill—Section 733 (also known as the Monsanto Rider)—which would allow the planting of genetically modified crops even if they were illegally approved.

A timely example came last week as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets received final USDA approval after issues surrounding the crop since 2005 have toggled its status back and forth from approved to banned. Food and environmental groups filed lawsuits against the USDA over failure to conduct proper safety tests, which got the crop banned from the market. But, certain farmers were given approval to grow the GMO beets to avert an alleged sugar shortage, essentially allowing the planting of the still illegal crop. And although the final approval was just made last week, more than 95 percent of sugar beets grown in the U.S. are genetically modified.

The biotech industry has continually pushed for swifter approval processes, pressuring lawmakers to decrease the approval time. And the new provisions, according to Reuters, could push controversial crops to market without thorough safety testing. “A controversial new type of corn developed by Dow Agrosciences, altered to allow more liberal spraying of the widely used 2,4-D broad leaf herbicide, could sidestep regulatory hurdles currently in place and gain swift approval under the new law.”

Among the advocacy groups concerned over the measures, the Center for Food Safety already has pending lawsuits that address failure by government regulators to execute safety measures on biotech crop approval. And California’s Proposition 37—a measure appearing on the November 2012 ballot—could bring stricter laws into the state on the labeling of genetically modified foods, which many voters are hopeful could impact safety and approval processes across the nation.

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