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The Oversight of Genetically Modified Crops in America is Failing

Many scientists and health professionals, like me, strongly believe U.S. government oversight of genetically modified crops over the past two decades -- that has permitted, among other things, the creation of super weeds -- is an unmitigated disaster.

The latest problem: Bayer CropScience has asked federal regulators to approve the experimental LLRICE601, an unapproved variety of biotech rice that's been on the market for years, because it had migrated from test plots into America's long-grain rice supplies, even after the company discontinued testing the variant five years ago.

Although experts predict the long abandoned bioengineered rice will be approved, perhaps solving the financial problems American farmers may face, it may well lead to a brand new set of agricultural concerns. Specifically, the LL601 variant comes with a bacterial gene that protects rice from Bayer's Liberty weed killer. Farmers are very concerned, as new crops are cultivated, the primary ingredient in LL601 migrate once again to red rice, the leading plant pest in the South, creating more financial hardships and poorer crop yields. Two more red light concerns:

  • The petition Bayer filed for approval for LL601 that contains a great deal of information (nearly 40 percent) that has been blacked out for competitive business reasons.
  • Bayer can skip some of the regulatory hurdles for approval because LL601 is similar to two other varieties approved by the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (a satellite agency that handles biotech crop approvals) but never sold because farmers didn't want them.

Unless something is done very soon, genetically modified varieties of the fruits and vegetables you eat may be the only options left, and all the health risks that may come. No better time than the present to review some simple ways you can avoid Frankenstein-like foods for good.

Washington Post November 6, 2006