News Note: This week the Wall Street Journal did an editorial on the Agriculture Department’s mixing of politics with the science of government regulation. The problems involves the decision of Ag. Secretary Tom Vilsak bringing in activist and biotech opponents to assist in crafting the agency’s biotech regulation. The WSJ sees this as a troubling future trend in federal regulation decision making,
Below is an excerpt:
Full article here,
“According to activists, the Roundup Ready crop menaces the purity of nearby organic fields, potentially cross-pollinating and threatening the livelihood of organic farmers. To mitigate the possible contamination, organic producers have suggested mandatory minimum planting distances and a USDA administered fund that would compensate organic farmers who were harmed by which way the wind was blowing. Some have also suggested a system whereby traditional farmers accept liability for any contamination of organic crops.
If this sounds like vintage antibiotech activist fare with the imprimatur of the USDA, you’re getting the picture. By suggesting that industry and activist groups negotiate compromises in advance of the final ruling on whether to deregulate, Mr. Vilsack is using the Department’s regulatory authority as leverage against businesses whose products are overwhelmingly regulated by USDA.
It gets worse. Mr. Vilsack’s authority in the regulatory decision-making process is based on the assumption of sound scientific data. But according to people who attended the meeting last Monday, the USDA Secretary told the assembled groups that science itself is subjective, and that he could have three different groups bring him three different supposedly scientific opinions.
Momentum for the new regulatory mischief is also coming from Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan, whose background helping develop the USDA’s organic labelling guidelines gives her kinship with biotech critics who support minimum planting distances—a plan that would impose a heavy burden on farmers who use the products. As Idaho-based company Forage Genetics pointed out at the meeting on Monday, roughly 20% of the alfalfa hay acres in the country would fall into those “no plant zones,” leaving those farmers “disenfranchised from the benefits of biotechnology and alfalfa because of the accident of where they happen to be farming.”
Full article here,
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