Tell the USDA to Do Its Job: Protect Consumers, Not the Biotech Industry!

Two years ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), with help from then-President Obama, effectively stripped consumers of their right to know if their food contains GMO ingredients.

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!

ripped hole in a piece of orange paper with dna gene strands showing through

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 be threatened 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 saideven 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.

Sign the Petition


To: Sonny Perdue, USDA Secretary of Agriculture

Re: Docket No. APHIS-2018-0034

Dear Secretary Perdue,

I am writing to ask you to reject the USDA’s proposed rule to “modernize” the regulatory process for genetically modified organisms by effectively allowing biotech corporations to “self-regulate.”

As new genetic engineering techniques are developed, the public should expect the USDA to exercise even greater caution and oversight over these technologies, not less. It is naive and irresponsible to assume that corporations will put public safety concerns ahead of corporate profits.

As a safety-conscious food consumer, and a public citizen whose concerns about the environment range from species extinction, soil degradation and air and water pollution, I expect taxpayer-funded agencies like the USDA to protect human and environmental health, not corporate profits.

I also expect the USDA to protect organic farmers, whose crops are threatened by cross-pollination of unregulated, untested GMOs.

I reject the false argument that GMOs are needed to “feed the world.” It is an established fact, confirmed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, that small-scale farmers produce 70 percent of the world’s food, using only 30 percent of the world’s agricultural resources. 

For the third straight year, U.N. agencies have documented rising levels of severe hunger in the world. Yet here in the U.S.—where 40 million people experience hunger on a routine basis—we are experiencing what Reuters called a “global grains glut,” with surplus agricultural commodities piled up outside grain silos rotting for want of buyers.

More GMO commodity crops and other foods are not the answer to world, or U.S. hunger. What we need are better policies that support farmers who build soil health (not degrade it) and grow nutrient-dense food for their communities without polluting our waterways.

I call on the USDA to strengthen, not weaken, the review process for all GMO crop and food technologies. This is a reasonable expectation for a government agency whose job is to protect the public.

Thank you.