The USDA is embarking on a pilot project that would see the same biotech company that produces the genetically altered(genetically modified organisms) to do the safety check and environmental impact studies themselves or contract the work out.
While the first GM crop was presented to the public 12 years ago - Flav Savr tomato - no complete environmental impact statements(EIS) were completed until 2007 when legal action forced the biotech company involved to stop distribution of GM alfalfa. The study revealed possible problems with cross-pollination with organically grown and non GM alfalfa, but the biotech seeds were approved for sale.
"Now, the USDA plans to experiment with a new way of evaluating bio-tech crops for potential commercialization. Under the agency's new two-year pilot project, biotech developers would conduct their own environmental assessment of transgenic crops or pay contractors to perform the analysis."GM Watch
The stated aim of the USDA is to streamline the process and to eliminate unnecessary delays
Opponents of the spread of trans genetic food crops are not happy with the latest developments. Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Centre for Food Safety is quoted: It's like asking BP to write an assessment of an offshore drilling operation.
Why should we care? Scientifically conducted studies are to be unbiased. If the people conducting the study are employed by a multinational biotech company, then bias either overt or inadvertent can creep into the study. That is why the gold standard for scientific studies is the double blind study.
Farmers who's fields border on GMO fields may have their crops contaminated with the GM seed or GM pollen and lose their organic status. Further, biotech companies hold a patent on their seeds and farmers must buy and sell their seeds only to them. A landmark legal case pitting Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser and Montsanto whereby Montsanto asserted that he illegally planted Roundup Ready Canola and Schmeiser maintained that the GM seeds contaminated his field. It went all the way to the Supreme Court but Montsanto settled and agreed to clean up Schmeiser's fields. It is more usual for farmers to become embroiled in legal action until they run out of money to fight the multinational.
The food supply is becoming infiltrated with GM products. Canada and the US do not require any labelling of foods or food products that contain genetically altered foods. It is likely that no harm will come to us from this large, uncontrolled experiment with our food supply, but it is an uncontrolled experiment. We don't know what GMs we eat and so don't know if they harm us.
There are concerns relating directly to the environment. The bacterial gene Bt inserted into corn to kill corn borers, kills butterflies. Butterflies are part of Nature's web, etc.
Farmers in Australia are facing shrinking overseas markets for their crops as countries such as Japan and some in Europe have banned the importation of GM crops.
You can help to slow this trend toward genetically altered food by buying organic, growing your own or by asking for non GMO foods at your market.