How much dam­age could be caused dur­ing the six months the leg­is­la­tion is in effect? “That was a big ques­tion for us and I think a big ques­tion for a lot of peo­ple,” O’Neil answered. “At the time, there were fears about some of the genet­i­cally engi­neered crops that are await­ing approval by the USDA—for exam­ple, Dicamba and 2,4-D-resistant crops. But on Friday the USDA announced that they will be con­duct­ing full Environmental Impact Statements for these crops, some­thing that we’ve been call­ing for ever since the USDA announced that it was begin­ning the approval process for them. We see that as a major vic­tory, and obvi­ously any legal chal­lenge to the USDA’s deci­sions would be put off for many years.

“In the­ory there are still a cou­ple of other crops that could be approved dur­ing this win­dow, but we may or may not see this rider trig­gered. It only takes into account the USDA approval of a crop, the chal­lenge to the approval, and then a court strik­ing down that approval. So, we may not see this ever hap­pen or the rider used. With that said, it does set a very dan­ger­ous prece­dent for how Congress inter­venes with the inde­pen­dent judi­ciary. We’re very con­cerned about the mes­sage it sends.”

Keeping it permanently off

The work CFS and other orga­ni­za­tions are now doing is designed to ensure that this rider does not make it into any per­ma­nent legislation—but it will take all of us with a con­science to help bring that about.

“The best way for peo­ple to help is to con­tinue to push their rep­re­sen­ta­tives and their sen­a­tors to oppose this pro­vi­sion, as well as any other pro­vi­sions that would gut or erode the over­sight and reg­u­la­tion of genet­i­cally engi­neered crops,” O’Neil con­cluded. “In last year’s House Farm Bill we saw three pro­vi­sions intro­duced that would have severely eroded the USDA’s abil­ity to ade­quately assess and reg­u­late genet­i­cally engi­neered crops. There was a fair amount of pub­lic oppo­si­tion to those provisions.

“Last week the House and the Senate com­mit­tees released their draft Farm Bills. I’m happy to report that those pro­vi­sions from last year’s Farm Bill are not in the base bills. At this point we’re not sure if there will be any amend­ments offered, how­ever; so it’s very impor­tant for peo­ple to be call­ing their mem­bers of Congress to express the need for more regulation—not less—and to say that these vital safe­guards that pro­tect the envi­ron­ment, farm­ers and con­sumers shouldn’t be on the chop­ping block.”

To take action on this and other food safety issues, please visit the Food Safety Action Center on the Organic Connections web site.