WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has deregulated a Monsanto corn strain genetically engineered (GE) to produce bigger ears. This is the third deregulated GE corn strain in as many months, as the agency deregulated Monsanto's rootworm- and glyphosate-resistant corn strain MON 87411, and Syngenta's glyphosate-resistant corn strain MZHGOJG in October. This month, the agency has also extended its previous deregulation determinations for another of Syngenta's pesticide-resistant corn strains, and a GE potato strain. These deregulation actions seem to be out of step with the growing resistance to GE and genetically modified (GMO) crops.
APHIS's decision in support of Monsanto's deregulation petition comes just days after more than 20 U.S. and international anti-GE organizations announced they are putting Monsanto on trial for crimes against nature and humanity, and ecocide, in The Hague, Netherlands. The tribunal is to begin Oct. 16, 2016, on World Food Day, according to an announcement made at a Dec. 3 press conference in Paris, held in conjunction with the U.N. Conference on Climate Change.
"Monsanto has pushed GMOs in order to collect royalties from poor farmers, trapping them in unpayable debt, and pushing them to suicide. Monsanto promotes an agro-industrial model that contributes at least 50 percent of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Monsanto is also largely responsible for the depletion of soil and water resources, species extinction and declining biodiversity, and the displacement of millions of small farmers worldwide," Vandana Shiva said. She is a physicist, author, activist, member of the Regeneration International Steering Committee, and founder of Navdanya, an organic seed keeper network in India.
APHIS is tasked with evaluating GE crop strains for risk to agricultural crops or other plants. If a strain is found to be unlikely to pose a plant pest risk, it is then deregulated. Today's action means that APHIS authorizations that were previously required for the strain's release into the environment, interstate movement, or import will no longer be required for MON-87403 corn. The agency took the current action because its environmental assessment found that deregulation was "not likely" to have a significant impact on the human environment, according to the notice published today.
GE organisms are considered to be regulated articles if it or agents used in the engineering process meet the definition of a plant pest, the agency said.
MON 87403 was previously regulated because genetic sequences from plant pest organisms, specifically Agrobacterium tumefaciens and Cauliflower mosaic caulimovirus, were inserted into the genetic material of the corn strain. Gene sequences from a plant in the mustard family, rice and wheat, as well as other previously engineered sequences were also inserted into this strain.
Monsanto's data indicates the protein in this engineered corn strain does not have "structural similarity to known allergens, gliadins, glutenins or protein toxins that may have adverse effects on human or animal health," according to APHIS' plant pest risk assessment, which seems to rely heavily on Monsanto's own findings.
The agency's recent deregulation activity comes not only in the face of rising domestic and international opposition to the proliferation of GE organisms, but also rising demand for transparency in labeling GE and GMO food crops.
In November, The Mellman Group research organization conducted a poll for the anti-GE group Just Label It!, which found that 89 percent of American voters favored mandatory labels for GE or GMO foods. The results were similar across party lines, the poll indicated.
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