Feds Further Muddy GMO Transparency

New actions from the federal government will unleash even more genetically modified food on the public. Action Alert!
President Trump recently signed an executive order to make it easier for genetically engineered (GE) plants and animals to enter the food supply. This follows a proposed rule issued early in June that loosens requirements that certain GE plants must follow. These actions will make it easier for Big Food to develop and sell GE food while hiding the fact that it has been genetically modified, thanks to the sham GMO labeling law passed in 2016.
President Trump’s executive order is meant to “simplify” the regulations that companies must follow to bring GE products to market. The executive order directs federal agencies that oversee GE plants and animals to review their current regulations and come up with a more “streamlined” approach that fosters innovation in the biotechnology sector.
Separately, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) released a proposed rule that waters down the regulations companies must follow regarding the “movement” of GE plants, where “movement” means the importation, interstate movement, or environmental release of GE plants. The proposed rule’s new approach is to focus on the properties of the GE plant itself rather than the method used to produce it. So, if a company uses gene editing or some other technology to bring about a change in a plant that APHIS determines could have come about as a result of traditional plant breeding, the plant would not be regulated under the rule. If APHIS determines the change could not be produced naturally and the GE plant could pose a plant pest risk, then permits must be acquired to “move” the plant.
These actions are music to the ears of the biotechnology industry, but will expose consumers to a host of new products with unknown safety profiles. It should go without saying that the method used to produce a new plant variety is relevant to its safety. A GE plant and its conventional counterpart may appear the same, but genetic engineering introduces new elements of unpredictability.
For example, synthetic organic chemicals were developed in the early 1900’s. One could argue that this was a simple extension of basic chemistry, since these chemicals were made of the same elements as “natural” chemicals. Yet the massive production and distribution of synthetic chemicals showed us that many of them had unexpected dangers for human health and the environment.
We simply cannot anticipate the unintended consequences of GE plants and animals. As the Institute for Responsible Technology has noted, the genetic engineering process creates massive collateral damage, causing mutations in hundreds or thousands of locations throughout the plant’s DNA. Natural genes can be deleted or permanently turned on or off, and hundreds may change their behavior. Even the inserted gene can be damaged or rearranged, and may create proteins that can trigger allergies or promote disease.
Already there is a significant body of evidence pointing to the dangers of GE crops already on the market. For example, GE foods may make us allergic to non-GE foods, cause liver problems, and reproductive problems.
The federal government has consistently sided with industry in regard to GE food. In 2016, when polls consistently showed that over 90% of Americans wanted clear labeling of GE foods, Congress passed a food industry-supported bill that allows food companies to hide the presence of GE ingredients in a scannable QR code that most Americans don’t use.
Let’s fight back on these current efforts to expose us to more GMOs.
Action Alert! Write to the USDA, Congress, and President Trump, urging them to reverse these decisions that will expose more Americans to GMOs. Please send your message immediately.