Feds Ignore the Environment for Big Business ''Bio-Pharming'' Concerns

Apparently, a rogue element in the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is so focused on protecting big business -- just like the FDA -- it repeatedly ignored federal laws to "bio-pharm" genetically modified crops, despite the threat to 329 endangered or threatened species.

That was the gist of last week's ruling from a U.S. District judge in Hawaii (the first by a federal court) against the USDA's Animal and Plant Health and Inspection Service for allowing biopharming on 800 acres in the state. Unfortunately, the damage to the environment has already been done. Corn and sugar cane plants, altered to produce human hormones, drugs and other ingredients for AIDS and hepatitis B vaccines, were harvested before the case was decided.

Even worse, this isn't the first time the Inspection Service has been in trouble. The USDA's Office of Inspector General cited multiple problems against the service late last year for failing to enforce rules for genetically-modified plants.

The Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, an organization that benefited from the lax rulings by the feds to make a human blood protein from sugar cane, argues last week's ruling looks backward at problems already corrected. If that's true, why has Ventria Bioscience been shut out of various states for trying to grow rice that produce human proteins?

Genetic engineering is such a significant threat to the future of our world, I'm currently in the process of writing a book about it that should be published next year.

Washington Post August 16, 2006

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