Monday, January 28, 2013

Strange apples

From the Heartland, Margot McMillen writes: As we’ve seen, the modern corporation doesn’t raise money and power from investors. Instead, the modern corporation has a staff dedicated to moving money and power from the government to themselves. That means moving money and power from we the people, dear citizen. As you remember, the 2012 Farm Bill was not passed in 2012. Instead, the 2008 Farm Bill was extended. It will cover agriculture and food until September, by which time a new farm bill must be passed. You’re probably seeing Op-Eds in the press saying “remove food from the farm bill,” by which they mean they want taxpayers to stop paying for food stamps and school lunches. Farming, to these corporate writers, is about ethanol and exports. One of the things they do want in the Farm Bill is a set of “Biotech Riders” in sections 10011, 10013, and 10014 in the House version. This so-called Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act of 2012 contains a bunch of provisions. In Section 10011, for example, the act puts pressure on U.S.D.A. to approve genetically engineered crops within a year of seeing them. If they need more time, they can ask for 180 more days. This evaluation includes such things as environmental impact of the new crop, pest risk assessment, effect of its self-contained pesticide and anything else that would make it dangerous to nature. Of course, those of us that live surrounded by these crops and their altered set of weeds know that it takes more than a year for a GMO crop to change the entire ecosystem. GMO soybeans engineered to resist Roundup, an herbicide, have now created 25 species of weeds that can’t be killed by Roundup. But it took a few years for farmers to see the result. By the way, if U.S.D.A. doesn’t meet the one-year rule, the crop is automatically ruled as “not a plant pest.” And, if this part of the bill passes, USDA has only 90 days “to complete its review of any biotech crop that has already applied for deregulation under the Plant Protection Act . . .” That means that a slew of new crops, including human food crops with new genes in them, will be approved despite consumer uproar. There’s a list of these strange new crops on the web at The list includes new kinds of potatoes, soybeans, cotton, canola, corn and an apple with flesh that doesn’t turn brown with damage or age. And we’ll be looking at more of these “Biotech Riders” and their impact on us as eaters and farmers all week.

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