Monsanto to self-regulate environmental impact
A new pilot programme, run by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) allows big bio-tech companies to self-regulate their own environmental impact.
The USDA regulators are training the world’s biggest biotech firms, including Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta, to conduct environmental reviews of their own transgenic seed products as part of the government’s deregulation process.
An exclusive article from Truthout, reveals the regulators are also testing new cost-sharing agreements that allows the biotech firms to pay private contractors to prepare the environmental statements.
Documents obtained by Truthout under a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request reveal that biotech companies, lawmakers and industry groups have put mounting pressure on the USDA in recent years to speed up the petition process, limit environmental impact assessments and approve more GE crops.
One group went as far as sending USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack a timeline of GE soybean development that reads like a deregulation wish list. [Click here and here to download and read some of the documents released to Truthout.]
The pilot project aims to speed up the deregulation process by allowing petitioning companies to do some of the legwork and help pay contractors to prepare regulatory documents and, for its part, the USDA has kept the pilot fairly transparent.
A list of 22 biotech seeds that could be reviewed under the pilot program includes Monsanto drought-tolerant corn, a “non-browning” apple, freeze tolerant eucalyptus trees and several crops engineered to tolerate the controversial herbicides glyphosate and 2,4 D.
Activists say biotech firms like Monsanto are concerned only with profit and routinely supply regulators with one-sided information on the risks their GE seeds – and the pesticides sprayed on and produced by them – pose to consumers, animals and the agricultural environment.
(The Natural Society recently declared Monsanto the worst company of 2011.)
Bill Freese, a policy expert with the Center for Food Safety (CFS), told Truthout that the NEPA pilot gives already powerful biotech companies too much influence over the review process.
“It’s the equivalent of letting BP do their own Environmental Assessment of a new rig,” Freese said.
Photo: GM Canola in NSW Australia. Thanks to Jemasmith on Flickr.
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