Environmental Defense today praised the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for finalizing its long-awaited rules applying to genetically engineered crops. The rules spell out how the agency regulates pesticidal substances, such as "Bt" toxins, that certain plants are genetically engineered to produce.
"EPA's rules are a cornerstone of federal oversight of genetically engineered crops," said Environmental Defense senior scientist Dr. Rebecca Goldburg. "These rules are essential to protecting both the environment and food safety." EPA proposed the rules in 1994, and the Clinton administration approved the final rules in January 2001. The Bush administration, which had held up processing of the rules in January, recently approved the rules, which appeared in today's Federal Register.
"EPA has implemented the rules since they were first proposed," said Goldburg. "For example, the agency has registered as pesticides numerous Bt toxins for use in genetically engineered cotton, potatoes, and corn, including 'Starlink' corn, which has contaminated taco shells and other foods. However, EPA's proposed rules did not clearly have the full force of the law, and were susceptible to industry disregard. Publication of the final rules make EPA's regulatory program fully enforceable."
"The rules are consistent with the recommendations of an April, 2000, National Academy of Sciences report," said Goldburg, who was a member of the panel that wrote the report. The report, Genetically Modified Pest-Protected Plants: Science and Regulation, urged that EPA's rules be finalized, and that the scope of the rules be expanded slightly, to apply to some types of genetically engineered plants not covered by the proposed rule.
Along with finalizing the rules, EPA yesterday issued a supplemental notice requesting public comment on whether the agency should expand the scope of the rules to be consistent with the recommendations of the National Academy report.