The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has asked members of the U.S. House of Representatives to exclude certain provisions in the Farm Bill that would limit the government’s authority to conduct environmental analyses of genetically engineered (GE) crops. According to CSPI, “the bill language at issue would specifically limit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s regulatory review to specific issues, such as whether the engineered crops could act as ‘plant pests’—a scenario CSPI says is not supported by science. Instead, Congress should write stand-alone legislation that would give USDA specific regulatory authority over genetically engineered crops and consider the full range of actual potential problems with such crops, such as the development of weeds or insects that were resistant to the crops’ technology, and the impact of gene flow to weedy relatives.”

CSPI Biotechnology Director Greg Jaffe asks, “Why would Congress add to the public’s skepticism of genetically engineered crops by letting new varieties go to market before a thorough analysis of their potential environmental impact? As written, these provisions would handcuff USDA and prevent it from eliminating or managing potential environmental harm that might be caused by these products.”

In a letter to Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-Okla,) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Jaffe wrote that the current regulatory process at USDA is not only too slow, but does not even focus on the most important risks of GE crops. CSPI has argued that foods made from currently marketed GE crops are safe to eat and that their environmental impact could be managed safety with effective oversight. But the group also supports legislation that would require mandatory pre-market approval of GE crops before they enter our food supply—authority that government regulators at the Food and Drug Administration still lack, according to CSPI. See CSPI News Release, November 2, 2012.