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POLICY & REGULATION: Increased oversight of GMO crops needed-US GAO



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:  INCREASED OVERSIGHT OF GMO CROPS NEEDED-US GAO

SOURCE: Reuters, UK

AUTHOR: Jasmin Melvin

URL:    http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSN0547754020081206

DATE:   05.12.2008

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INCREASED OVERSIGHT OF GMO CROPS NEEDED-US GAO

WASHINGTON, Dec 5 (Reuters) - More oversight and coordination is needed among federal agencies to prevent unapproved releases of genetically modified crops into the environment and food and feed supply, the investigative arm of the U.S. Congress said on Friday.

Since 2000, there have been six known unauthorized releases of GMO crops into the food supply involving GMO corn and rice.

Earlier this week, Monsanto Co, the leading developer of biotech crops, said some unapproved GMO cotton was harvested. The resulting cottonseed meal may have entered the livestock feed supply.

The Government Accountability Office said in a report that more incidents of unauthorized releases could have occurred in the United States and simply gone unnoticed.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulate GMO crops.

?As pointed out by GAO, the three regulatory agencies still do not adequately coordinate their regulation of the food safety or environmental consequences of these crops,? the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group, said.

Each agency contends that the unapproved GMO crops that were released have not caused any harmful effects to people, animals or the environment.

But, the releases have led to food recalls and lost trade opportunities that economists estimate cost producers millions of dollars, the GAO said.

?When unapproved genetically engineered crops are detected in the food and feed supply, food safety concerns rise, markets are disrupted and consumer confidence falls,? said Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa in a statement.

Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia agreed that unapproved GMO crops in the market is a problem requiring swift action.

?We must do all we can do to enhance the effectiveness of oversight functions so the technology continues to be available as new products are introduced,? he said in a statement.

Crop developers are subject to periodic inspections, but the GAO says the Agriculture Department lacks the resources to inspect every site and the EPA has not made inspections a priority. Most of the known unauthorized releases were self-reported by the crop developers, the report said.

To boost oversight, the GAO recommended that the FDA make the results of its early food safety evaluations of GMO crops public. The FDA agreed and said it intends to post the results on its Web site.

Also, the GAO recommends that the FDA and Agriculture Department improve their coordination. The GAO suggested developing a formal agreement to share information on GMO crops that could have adverse health implications.

The last recommendation involved all three agencies collaborating to monitor GMO crops on the market.

More than 70 percent of processed foods sold in the United States have ingredients from GMO crops, according to the report. GMO seeds sold in 2007 amassed a global value of $6.9 billion.

Yet, oversight focuses mostly on crops in the testing phase with little monitoring after crops are marketed. The GAO believes this leaves room for problems with GMO crops approved for the food supply to fly under the radar.

?The incoming Obama administration should implement all of the GAO recommendations, especially one requiring post-approval monitoring for unintended environmental and food safety consequences,? the Center for Science in the Public Interest said. ?Resources spent on post-market monitoring would protect consumers, the environment and our trading partners.? (Editing by Christian Wiessner)



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  BIOTECH CROPS IN FOOD AND FEED PROMPT WARNING ON MONITORING

SOURCE: The Des Moines Register, USA

AUTHOR: Philip Brasher

URL:    http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20081206/BUSINESS01/812060321/1029/BUSINESS

DATE:   06.12.2008

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BIOTECH CROPS IN FOOD AND FEED PROMPT WARNING ON MONITORING

Washington, D.C. ?Federal agencies should improve their monitoring of genetically engineered crops to ensure they don?t harm the environment or human health, government investigators say.

In at least six incidents since 2000, unapproved versions of biotech crops got into the food and feed supply, and there are likely to be more because it is so easy for plant genetic material to spread, according to a report released Friday by the Government Accountability Office.

The report urged the three federal agencies in charge of regulating biotech crops ? the Agriculture Department, Food and Drug Administration and Environmental Protection Agency ? to work more closely together to evaluate and monitor crops, including those already on the market. A concern scientists have is that the use of herbicide-tolerant crops could lead to the spread of weedkiller-resistant weeds.

The report also called on the FDA to post on its Web site safety evaluations of biotech crops. FDA officials said that they would try to do that but that other concerns have taken a higher priority.

The chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, plans to get commitments from the incoming Obama administration ?to pay closer attention to these issues,? said Kate Cyrul, a spokeswoman for the panel.

Harkin ?will also keep the pressure on the responsible people in the agencies to improve coordination,? she said.

Both the USDA and the EPA are responsible for monitoring research plots. But the USDA doesn?t have the resources to inspect all sites, and neither the EPA nor the states it has delegated the job to has made such inspections a priority, the investigators said. Most contamination incidents have been reported by the crop developers.



                                  PART 3

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GAO CALLS FOR GREATER COORDINATION, MONITORING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS

SOURCE: Center for Science in the Public Interest, USA

AUTHOR: Press Release

URL:    http://cspinet.org/new/200812051.html

DATE:   06.12.2008

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GAO CALLS FOR GREATER COORDINATION, MONITORING OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED CROPS

The Center for Science in the Public Interest supports all of the recommendations in today?s Government Accountability Office report on genetically engineered crops. The federal government established a coordinated framework for the regulation of GE crops more than 20 years ago. Yet, as pointed out by GAO, the three regulatory agencies--USDA, FDA, and EPA--still do not adequately coordinate their regulation of the food safety or environmental consequences of these crops.

The incoming Obama Administration should implement all of the GAO recommendations, especially one requiring post-approval monitoring for unintended environmental and food safety consequences. The federal government?s response to that recommendation by GAO is inadequate and short-sighted, as resources spent on post-market monitoring would protect consumers, the environment, and our trading partners.

The FDA should also meet its commitment to the public made several years ago to publish on the Internet the results of its early food safety assessments of experimental GE crops. Lack of resources and having other safety priorities is not an excuse. Uploading decision documents to the web should simply be normal operating procedure.



                                  PART 4

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TITLE:  BUSH?S ENVIRONMENTAL LEGACY ON GMOS IS IRREVERSIBLE

SOURCE: The Huffington Post, USA

AUTHOR: Jeffrey Smith

URL:    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-smith/bushs-environmental-legac_b_148744.html

DATE:   05.12.2008

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BUSH?S ENVIRONMENTAL LEGACY ON GMOS IS IRREVERSIBLE

In a few hundred thousand years, after all weather effects of 21st century climate change have disappeared from the earth?s surface, after our quietly smoldering nuclear waste has been extinguished, two destructive impacts traceable to George Bush?s policies will yet remain.

The first is extinctions. Species that have died out, including the subset resulting from Bush?s environmental policies, will forever deprive our evolving biosphere of their contribution.

The second is genetically modified organisms (GMOs) -- animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses, who?s DNA have been mixed and mangled by insertions from foreign species. Once released into the ecosystem, by intention or accident, the genetic pollution self-propagates. No recall by the Obama administration can clean up Mexico?s indigenous corn varieties, now contaminated by our genetically modified (GM) corn. No executive order can remove or even identify the wild mustard plants now carrying altered genes bestowed on it by the pollen from its cousin, GM canola.

We all know stories that illustrate the exponential effects of invasive species. Here?s my favorite, recalled in my book Genetic Roulette:

On Christmas Day 1859, the Victorian Acclimatization Society released 24 rabbits into the Australian countryside so that settlers could hunt them for sport and feel more ?at home.? The rabbits multiplied to well over 200 million, spreading out over 4 million square kilometers. That Christmas present now costs Australian agriculture about $600 million per year.

Will GMOs of today show up as the ?Australian rabbits? of the future? While their impact on our ecosystem and diet is largely unstudied, that has not stopped the current and past administrations from presiding over the release of millions of acres of GM crops. Not only does each plant carry a gene from bacteria or viruses, its DNA has hundreds or thousands of mutations resulting from the disruptive process of genetic engineering. Reports suggest that the side effects of GMOs are quite dangerous.

Bush policies institutionalize GMO contamination

If we were to ban GMOs today, as is more than justified, some contamination from commercialized GM food crops will nonetheless carry forward in the gene pool of those (and related) species. This includes contaminants from our largest farmed GM crops, including soybeans, yellow corn, cotton, and canola, as well as the smaller crops: Hawaiian papaya, zucchini, and crookneck squash. Newly added--in this year?s harvest--are GM sugar beets and white corn. There are also GM tomatoes and potatoes no longer on the market, but whose genes and seeds, to some degree, continue to persist ?out there.? But the dirty laundry list actually includes over 100 different experimental GM crops, field trialed at more than 50,000 sites in the US since 1986.

Although the government is supposed to make sure that these trials won?t contaminate the surrounding environment, a 2005 report by the USDA Office of Inspector General harshly condemned the USDA?s abominable oversight. ?Current regulations, policies, and procedures,? said the report, ?do not go far enough to ensure the safe introduction of agricultural biotechnology.? The agency?s weaknesses ?increase the risk that regulated genetically engineered organisms will inadvertently persist in the environment.?

But George Bush?s pro-biotech response was to further weaken the agency?s GMO oversight--and he?s trying to do it quickly, before Obama steps in. The proposed ruling makes gene escape more likely, even from GM crops designed to produce pharmaceutical drugs and industrial chemicals.

Monsanto admits more contamination

As a backdrop to Bush?s rushed proposal, Monsanto just admitted that an acre of its field trialed, not-yet-approved GM cottonseeds, was inadvertently harvested and mixed with approved cotton. It then entered our food chain as animal feed and cottonseed oil. Oops.

But the FDA, EPA, and USDA employed another of the Bush administration?s institutionalized abdications of GMO oversight. They declared the cottonseed contamination safe, in spite of insufficient data to support their claim.

If Bush gets his new USDA rule into effect, let?s hope Obama heeds the advice of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which ?recommends that the new administration make revocation, revision and strengthening a top priority.?

No that won?t fully clean up our altered gene pool. But it will start to contain the runaway long-term genetic pollution that is now out of control.


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