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Apr 28, 2010

US Ag-Biotech Companies Seek Speedier Review Process for GM Seeds

The Wall Street Journal reports on the agricultural biotechnology industry's frustration with the time it is taking the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)under the Obama administration to approve and release new gene-engineered (GE) crops.  The industry is concerned that the administration, which has self-described itself as pro-biotech, is "gearing up for a far tougher analysis of the potential environmental impact of these crops."

According to the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), "on average, a genetically modified seed takes 1,188 days to pass federal scrutiny, almost twice as long as in 2008, the last year of the Bush administration."

USDA officials contend that the USDA biotechnology-regulation office is overwhelmed by the number of new innovations, as well as the increasing number of public comments.  Agricultural biotechnolog companies note that in 2009, they have submitted nine genetically modified crops for review, up from three or four petitions in previous years.  The USDA approved three of the the nine submitted in 2009.  Since the 1990s, the average approval rate has stood at five a year.

As a comparision, "Brazil approved nine genetically modified crops in 2009 compared with five in 2008, while Argentina approved two crops for commercialization."

Caleb Weaver, USDA press secretary noted that the USDA "looking into both immediate and long-term solutions to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the review process."  This includes a request to the U.S. Congress to increase its oversight budget 46% to $19 million.

From a historical perspective, "the USDA has cleared 80 genetically modified crops for commercialization since the 1990s, a process that involves a federally mandated environmental analysis. ..."  Of these, "only three genetically modified crops have been targeted for an 'environmental impact statement,' the most thorough form of the environmental review required by law. In two of the cases federal judges concluded the USDA was obligated to conduct the time-consuming studies."

For more see: Killman, Scott. "Biotech Firms Seek Speedier Reviews of Seeds; Approval Time for Genetically Modified Crops Doubles under Obama as Some Fear Tougher Stance; Feds Blame Logjam." Wall Street Journal, 28 April 2010.

About Margaret

CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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