A First: USDA Allows Monsanto to Approve its Own Crops

Wouldn’t every company like to do their own environmental impact analysis to determine the safety of its products on the environment?

Yes, they would, but since companies have special interests, usually putting profits over environmental protection, the job of determining the impact of their products falls on the shoulders of the government.

Not in this case. Believe it or not, the USDA has decided that Monsanto and other biotech companies should conduct its own environmental impact assessments on the impact of its genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

This is the latest in a series of terrible decisions by the USDA.
In March, a lawsuit was filed against the USDA for its unrestricted approval of genetically engineered "Roundup Ready" Alfalfa. The alfalfa is known to spread uncontrollably and would threaten organic crops in addition to releasing toxic herbicides into the environment. 

Monsanto is also being sued by family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, challenging its patents on genetically modified seed.

And a Federal judge issued revoked USDA approval for genetically engineered sugar beets because it had not adequately assessed the environmental consequences of commercial cultivation. The beets would easily cross-pollinate with other varieties, which would contaminate organic products grown nearby.

Monsanto’s GMO corn, soy, and cotton, which now constitute a vast majority of those crops in the US – are unregulated – and have resulted in a plague of Roundup-resistant "superweeds," forcing farmers to apply ever-higher doses of Roundup and other poisons. 

Still, the USDA continues to allow farmers to plant GMOs without environmental assessments. And the USDA announced a two year pilot project, which would allow biotech developers to conduct their own environmental impact studies, or contract them out.

Federal environmental law requires the agency to complete such reviews before deregulating biotech crops.

The biotech industry, of course, loves this, which would speed approval of GMO crops, and "help the documents hold up in court," Karen Batra of the Biotechnology Industry Organization told Capital Press.

The USDA defends the action saying that agency employees would be able to spend more time reviewing studies if it doesn’t have to write them.

"It’s like asking BP to write an assessment of an offshore drilling operation," said Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center For Food Safety and a biotech opponent. "The pilot program basically treats the environmental review process as a "rubber stamp" for getting biotech crops to market more quickly.

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