cows in field


Proposed Rule Change on Requirements for Field Testing Regulated Genetically Engineered Wheat

Deadline for comments is October 26th

The US is the world's largest exporter of wheat, an $8 billion business. Market rejection of genetically engineered (GE) wheat both domestically and abroad is longstanding. Two recent detections of GE wheat in Oregon and Montana did not go unnoticed on the world stage. The USDA has yet to uncover the sources of these contamination events.

That is why we welcome the news that the USDA wants to improve oversight of GE wheat trials by requiring permits for these trials. This is a step in the right direction, since nearly all GE crop field trials are currently regulated through a notification system that relies on voluntary compliance by the developers of GE crops. These field trials go largely unmonitored by the USDA. In fact, by our estimate, only 13% of experimental GE wheat trials have been inspected since 2000. That leaves a huge gap in information and accountability.

Requiring permits should improve regulatory oversight, including requiring inspections of field sites, but permits alone are not enough. Updated regulations coupled with improved oversight are desperately needed to protect our seed and food supply, and the livelihoods of farmers. Without improvements in regulation and oversight, contamination will happen again.

Submit your comments at this link by October 26th

Join us in telling the USDA that: There should be a moratorium on GE wheat field trials until regulatory improvements are made. USDA admits that despite extensive investigation, it does not know the origin of unauthorized GE wheat found in Oregon. The agency is still investigating unauthorized GE wheat found in Montana. Even without an understanding of how the GE wheat appeared where it did, it is reasonable to conclude that the current field trial requirements are inadequate.

Permits must establish mandatory contamination prevention measures and hold GE crop developers liable for contamination events. Permit requirements should include descriptions of how field tests will be performed, specific measures for ensuring confinement of the crops to reduce risks, and detailed plans for destroying crops at the end of the season. The USDA should also inspect field trials several times, including after the crop is destroyed and in subsequent growing seasons to look for volunteer plants. Developers of GE crops should be financially responsible for testing costs and losses associated with their field trials.

Permit holders should be required to notify growers who could be impacted by the trials. Farmers, seed companies, and plant breeders within the vicinity of GE field trials should be notified of their existence. This helps ensure that area growers are able to take precautions to avoid contamination and test their crops to ensure containment is successful.

AGAIN, submit your comments electronically at this link.