WASHINGTON, February 8, 2012 -USDA’s proposal to deregulate a biotech corn variety that tolerates the 2,4-D herbicide is encountering resistance from more than traditional foes of biotechnology, raising questions about whether the biotech community will hold together as even more new traits are offered. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service published a draft environmental assessment on the Dow AgroScience trait Dec. 27 and proposed to deregulate the crop for commercial planting.

The proposal had drawn 1,804 public comments through yesterday, most of them generated by appeals from anti-biotech activist groups. Many showed little understanding of the science, expressing fear that biotechnology would starve future generations and poison the planet.

More reasoned concerns were expressed in requests from the new Save Our Crops Coalition and the Organic Trade Association for a 60-day extension of the public comment period, now scheduled to end Feb. 27. In separate letters with similar arguments, SOCC and OTA said they and their constituents needed more time to assess the implications of adoption of 2,4-D tolerant crop. “APHIS should support and permit an extensive and meaningful public process regarding this unprecedented proposed action,” SOCC Executive Director John Bode wrote.

SOCC does not oppose advances in plant technology, particularly genetic modification, he said, “but does oppose actions that would result in the substantial injury of non-target crops and to the habitats necessary for their pollinators.” Because the Dow corn is the first crop engineered in response to emergence of glyphosate-resistant weeds, SOCC said, it raises new scientific, policy and legal issues that require “careful and searching public participation and scrutiny.”

Bode and OTA Executive Director Christine Bushway made similar points about timing, noting that APHIS published the Federal Register notice two days after Christmas, when many people were away, and did not post hundreds of pages of supplementary information until Jan. 12.



Original story printed in February 8, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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