Thursday, August 17, 2006

Where Oh Where Did The GMO Go?

Picture a pastoral scene.  Under a blue sky there is an open field.  Birds are singing, bees are buzzing.    Amongst other things, wild grass is growing in that field.  But some of that is something other than the product of mother nature.


NYT Link


An unapproved type of genetically engineered grass has been found growing in the wild in what scientists say could be the first instance in the United States in which a biotechnology plant has established itself outside a farm.


What!!??  How could that be?  Well, this is how it started.


The genetically engineered grass, called creeping bentgrass, is being developed by the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company and Monsanto for use on golf courses. It contains a bacterial gene that makes the grass resistant to the herbicide Roundup, known generically as glyphosate.


The goal is to create a product to allow groundskeepers to spray the herbicide on greens and fairways to kill weeds without hurting the grass.


Yes, a product designed to make it easier to put more potentially dangerous chemicals into the environment.  And who wouldn't support that?


But it seems that that escaping genetic material wasn't the product of plants that had the government's seal of approval.


Because of those concerns, the Agriculture Department is doing a full environmental impact assessment before making a decision.  It will be its first involving a genetically engineered crop.


Yes, this will be the first such study!!!  Nothing like closing the barn door after the genetically altered material has already departed.


But in another instance of inappropriate monitoring, a federal judge has called bullshit on the very same agency, the Department of Agriculture.


In Hawaii, the Department has received what can only be deemed appropriate treatment.


Link


Honolulu, HI -- Citing possible harm to Hawai'i's 329 endangered and threatened species, a federal district judge has ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) violated the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in permitting the cultivation of drug-producing, genetically engineered crops throughout Hawai'i. The court found that USDA acted in "utter disregard" of the ESA, and also violated the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), by failing to conduct even preliminary investigations prior to its approval of the plantings.


Violating existing laws?  Hmm, where have I heard that before?


"This decision shows that regulatory oversight of this out-of-control industry has been woefully inadequate. The agency entrusted with protecting human health and the environment from the impacts of genetic engineering experiments has been asleep at the wheel," said Paul Achitoff, attorney with Earthjustice.


I would concur.  But here is further evidence of the extent of incompetence.


Plaintiffs point to a scathing critique of USDA's regulation of biopharm and other genetically altered crops issued by the agency's Inspector General in December 2005 as evidence that USDA continues to neglect its regulatory duties. That report documented numerous violations, including USDA's failure to record locations of field trial sites and conduct required inspections. In two instances, USDA regulators were unaware that a total of more than two tons of harvested biopharm crop material was stored at uninspected facilities for over a year.


Hopefully after the customary reshuffling of personnel, things will actually change.


More interesting information with pretty charts.

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