Monsanto, a giant in the genetically modified food business, may be granted a privilege that any corporation would envy: regulating its own products.
The USDA’s National Environmental Policy Act Pilot Project will allow Monsanto and other biotech companies to run their own environmental impact studies, effectively trusting the companies to police themselves.
The plan is particularly controversial because Monsanto has a long history of manufacturing toxic chemicals (like Agent Orange and Roundup) and genetically modified crops with potentially dangerous effects. It’s also the producer of bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which is banned in Europe and Canada. Monsanto’s business practices have been called into question by an array of watchdogs and nonprofit organizations. —KDG
Because the USDA is so bad at doing its job on time, the agency decided to see if anyone else was prepared to do its EIS work instead. And so it looks like the USDA will at least temporarily hand over environmental impact responsibilities to the biotech companies behind GMO crops. The pilot program will allow these companies to conduct their own environmental assessments of crops or outsource the work to contractors.
The USDA won’t actually admit that it’s bad at performing its duties—instead, the agency claims that the move will make the environmental reporting process more timely, efficient, and cost-effective, according to the Federal Register. No knock on Monsanto, which is surely made up of great, honest people, but if the company has a vested interest in getting one of its crops deregulated, why wouldn’t it try to fudge the numbers on an environmental review? And why wouldn’t its hired contractors do the same? If this wasn’t so dangerous, it would be funny.