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USDA extends comment period on biotech environmental impacts

Editor's note: This one got lost in the shuffle. Apologies for the tardiness in posting it. -- RS

(Friday, April 2, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- From a news release:

SANTA CRUZ, Calif., March 23 -- The USDA's Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) agency has informed the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF) that it will extend the deadline for public comments on a major new approach to regulating genetically modified organisms. The agency had issued a notice on Jan. 23 of its intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement on, "... the environmental release of certain genetically modified organisms."

Facing a deadline of today (March 23) for comments on this complex proposal, the Foundation and others had requested an extension in order to ensure that the proposed EIS adequately addresses the impacts of genetically modified organisms as "plant pests." Late Monday afternoon, USDA-BRS staff informed the Foundation that a three-week extension will be granted. Mark Lipson, the Foundation's Policy Program Director said, "We thank USDA for their action. This extended period will allow us to help thousands of farmers and others who may be affected to submit their comments."

In its request, the Foundation noted that the proposal "applies to every region of the country, and potentially every type of agricultural production." Organic producers have expressed increasing alarm about contamination of their crops and seeds by the escape of genetically engineered material. OFRF's past president, Ron Rosmann of Harlan, Iowa, said in his comments to USDA, "This is a very complex issue that has affected our own farm personally as well as organic and non-GE crop farmers around the whole country. Unfortunately, it is very difficult, if not downright impossible, to prevent cross-pollination from occurring with genetically engineered corn."

The Foundation's Executive Director, Bob Scowcroft noted that, "The public should take notice of this extended deadline and make their views known to USDA. The regulatory agencies must respond to what the National Research Council, the Union of Concerned Scientists, and others have been telling us: Current containment of genetically modified organisms is not adequate, particularly now that pharmaceutical and industrial compounds are being engineered into our food crops. The system needs to be overhauled."


  • Federal Register January 23, 2004, p.3271. (See http://www.usda.gov/Newsroom/0033.04.html and http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=2004_register&docid=fr23ja04-11 ).
  • See http://www.ofrf.org/policy/bio-tech/ . "OFRF Request for Extension on APHIS Docket# 03-031-2"
  • See http://www.ofrf.org/policy/bio-tech/ . "R. Rosmann Request for Extension on APHIS Docket# 03-031-2"
  • "Biological Confinement of Genetically Engineered Organisms," National Research Council, 2004. See http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10880.html .
  • "Gone to Seed: Transgenic Contaminants in the Traditional Food Supply," Union of Concerned Scientists, 2004. See http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_environment/biotechnology . Media Contact: Bob Scowcroft or Mark Lipson, 831-426-6606