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Date: Mon, 17 Apr 2000 09:46:37 -0400
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From: "Natl. Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture" <email@example.com>
Subject: BIOTECH Alert
NATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTUREBACKGROUND: The recently-established USDA Advisory Committee for Agricultural Biotechnology (ACAB) has been given a surprisingly extensive mission by USDA Secretary Dan Glickman. Glickman has asked ACAB to address the societal and ecological implications of agricultural biotechnology, as well as the performance of USDA’s various biotech policies and programs. (See Glickman’s statement to the Committee at www.usda.gov/news/releases/2000/03/0103.) The ACAB is the only high-level US Government committee with both a broad mandate on biotechnology and diverse representation. Its work constitutes an important opportunity to raise the social, economic and environmental dimensions of the biotechnology debate—and to influence USDA’s future course on this and related issues.
P.O. Box 396, Pine Bush, NY 12566, (914) 744-8448, Fax: (914) 744-8477; email: Campaign@magiccarpet.com
USDA SEEKS COMMENT ON BIOTECH POLICIES!
Help Set the Agenda for USDA’s new Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology
The ACAB held its first meeting on March 29-30, focused mainly on developing its agenda. Written comments submitted by May 1 will be part of the official record for this first meeting (although the public can send correspondence to the committee anytime). This is a crucial opportunity to help prioritize the issues that ACAB will examine, and tell USDA what its biotech policies should be! Write to the ACAB and tell them to take up the following issues, with your views on how to approach each issue.
1. The “Terminator” and the role of publicly funded agricultural research.
USDA is co-holder of the infamous “Terminator” patents covering seed sterilization technologies. This application of genetic engineering is a highly inappropriate expenditure of public research dollars. Urge the committee to investigate the USDA’s withdrawal from the three Terminator patents it now holds, and all genetic seed sterlization research. USDA should develop a policy prohibiting the expenditure of any further public funds on testing and developing this technology.
2. Re-allocation of USDA funding among agricultural technologies.
Secretary Glickman has asked the committee to examine current USDA budget allocations and make suggestions about future budget priorities. What should be spent on biotech vs. other agricultural methods? How should biotech funding be distributed? Urge the committee look for ways to rebalance USDA resources and give a fair share to cutting-edge alternatives like organic production, whole farm management, biointensive integrated pest management, and non-GE seed breeding. Urge the department to spend public dollars on understanding the ecological effects of agricultural biotechnology, rather than developing new GE products.
3. Accountability for Gene Pollution.
One the major issues posed by the transgenic crop technologies is “genetic pollution”: the inadvertent cross-pollination of neighboring non-GE crops due to pollen drift. A related problem is contamination of seed stocks, where transgenic seeds are mingled with non-GE supplies. This is an emerging problem for both organic and those conventional farmers who want to capture the non-GE markets in Japan and the EU. Urge the Committee to consider ways to place the responsibility for gene pollution on the companies who sell—and retain intellectual property interests in—the transgenic crops.
4. The Family Farmer—An Endangered Species.
In a food system dominated by transnational industrial conglomerates, America’s family farmers are an endangered species. Urge the Committee to consider the impacts of USDA biotechnology policy in resisting the total industrialization of American agriculture. Ask the committee to investigate the relationship between transgenic technology and corporate consolidation. ASK THE COMMITTEE TO HOLD FIELD HEARINGS OUTSIDE OF WASHINGTON D.C. TO HEAR FROM THE GRASS ROOTS!
5. Rigorous Evaluation of Environmental Risks.
USDA is one of three federal departments with responsibility for regulating GE crops. USDA’s role is to determine if transgenic crops pose a hazard to the agricultural environment. This review has been notoriously lax, and USDA has rubber-stamped thousands of GMO releases into the environment. Ask the advisory committee to examine USDA’s regulatory program in detail and recommend ways to strengthen it.
6. Risks and Benefits of GE-crops
Sound public policy about the new technologies like genetic engineering requires a realistic assessment of both the risks and benefits. Urge the Committee to consider the ways that USDA could help assess and disseminate unbiased information about both the risks and benefits of the technology. Good approaches might include, among others, recommendations to the Economic Research Service for topics of investigation and comprehensive technology assessments of new biotechnology applications.
Written comments should be submitted to:
Dr. Schechtman, DFO
Office of the Deputy Sec,
202A Jamie Whitten Federal Building,
12th and Independence Ave, SW,
Washington, DC 20250
Fax (202) 690-4265
Phone (202) 720-3817
For more information, contact the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture.
National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
P.O. Box 396
Pine Bush, New York 12566
If you would like to join our (free) Action Alert Network, please email us your name, address, phone, fax, and email.
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