Organic food manufacturer Amy’s Kitchen, Farm Aid, Clif Bar & Company, The Urban Farm, Organic Seed Alliance and the Center for Food Safety are among more than 150 farm organizations, millers, retailers, bakeries, seed businesses and food processors urging the US Department of Agriculture to improve its oversight of experimental trials of genetically engineered crops.
The groups have signed a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack that centers on their concern over the discovery this summer of unapproved genetically engineered wheat in Oregon. The signatories say the contamination shows the inadequacy of US regulation of genetically engineered crop field trials. The incident also reinforces the sensitivity of export markets, all of which reject genetically engineered wheat.
The economic impacts of the genetically engineered wheat discovery were immediate, the signatories say. Shipments from Oregon wheat farmers were temporarily put on hold after the unapproved wheat was found.
More than 400 field trials of genetically engineered wheat have been approved across the US over the last 20 years. However, the introduction of genetically engineered wheat has stopped 10 years ago after markets abroad rejected the product. Many US food and beverage companies prohibit the use of genetically engineered wheat.
The delegation has asked the USDA to halt new approvals of genetically engineered wheat field trials at least until the contamination investigation is complete. The group also says the USDA should publish a report detailing the investigation, implement recommendations that aim to improve field trial oversight, and require mandated containment protocols for all genetically engineered crop field trials.
A report released in May from watchdog group Food & Water Watch accuses the USDA of partnering with Monsanto and other GMO seed companies to push biotech crops abroad, forcing farmers to buy genetically modified seeds and agrichemicals.
Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Department Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda says the State Department lobbied foreign governments to adopt pro-biotech agricultural policies and deployed rigorous public relations campaigns to boost the industry’s image. Aside from Monsanto, the seed industry is dominated by a handful of players including Dow Chemical, Bayer, DuPont and Syngenta.