Monsanto has been given the go-ahead to sell its genetically engineered, drought-resistant corn after the Obama administration quietly approved the variety, with the announcement being made during December’s Christmas break.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the controversial product after Monsanto submitted a petition for its approval in 2009. Monsanto maintains 40 percent of North American crop losses occur as a result of sub-optimal moisture.
In a news release, Monsanto states the GE corn, MON 87460, carries the drought-tolerant trait to help maintain yield potential during drought stress.
“Our drought system is designed to help farmers mitigate the risk of yield loss when experiencing drought stress, primarily in areas of annual drought stress,” said Hobart Beeghly, Monsanto’s U.S. product management lead, in the company statement. “This spring farmers in the Western Great Plains will have an opportunity to see how the system performs on their farm through on-farm trials.”
Development of Monsanto’s drought-tolerant trait was part of a joint effort with Germany’s chemical giant, BASF.
In a determination (pdf) of Monsanto’s GE corn, the USDA states the
corn and progeny derived from it are unlikely to pose plant pest risks and is no longer to be considered regulated article under APHIS’ Biotechnology Regulations.
According to the USDA, the determination was based on its analyses of field and laboratory data submitted by Monsanto, among other relevant information.
The USDA goes on to note MON 87460 corn and its progeny
would have no significant impacts, individually or collectively, on the quality of the human environment and will have no effect on federally listed threatened or endangered species, species proposed for listing, or their designated or proposed critical habitats.
The USDA states on its website (pdf) the basic charge of its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is “Protecting American Agriculture,” and adds the U.S. government has been regulating genetically engineered (GE) organisms since 1986.
The Cornucopia Institute notes the USDA received almost 45,000 public comments opposed to MON 87460, with only 23 comments in favor.
“President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack just sent a clear message to the American public that they do not care about our concerns with genetically engineered food and their questionable safety, adverse environmental impacts, and detrimental effects on farmers, especially organic farmers,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst with Cornucopia, in a news release.
Also in the pipeline for genetically modified food is a corn by Dow which is being engineered to be more resistant to 2,4-D, a poisonous herbicide most famous for its being a primary ingredient in Agent Orange, prolifically used during the Vietnam War for defoliating forests and croplands.
In addition to announcing Monsanto’s approval, the USDA is taking public comments on Dow’s 2,4-D corn here.
Monsanto recently made other news when Canada’s NGO Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Conservation (ETC Group) released a report on the growing green economy, which noted large corporations, such as Monsanto, Dow, Exxon, BP, BASF, and the U.S. military, among others, are positioning themselves as conglomerates over who will control biomass development, DNA data generation, and other vital areas of the bioeconomy movement.