The Obama administration struck a blow to freedom in the realms of food and agriculture late January, when the USDA deregulated genetically modified (GM) alfalfa seed. The agency’s decision threatens to deprive farmers of the right to produce GM-free milk and meat and deny consumers the right to purchase it. It also threatens the relevance of the USDA’s organic program.
Then, on Feb. 4, the USDA did it again, this time by partially deregulating GM sugar beet seed.
Both announcements were great news for Monsanto, which owns both types of GM seeds — and USDA chief Tom Vilsack as well, apparently. Vilsack’s trips on the Monsanto corporate jet while governor of Iowa are well documented, and his “Governor of the Year” award from the Biotechnology Industry Association was surely well deserved. Indeed, both of Vilsack’s recent deregulations were big victories for the biotech industry as a whole. And the sugar beet move is especially chilling to those harboring fears of a GM planet. The USDA’s deregulation of sugar beet seed defied an order from a San Francisco District Court demanding an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) be produced before USDA deregulated the seed.
USDA deregulated it anyway. And even if the agency is ultimately penalized for this intransigence, the seed will have been planted, which is a significant gain of ground for GM agriculture-lovers.
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