While activists have been pushing for years to have more oversight and more scientific analysis in the approval process for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), it looks like the Obama administration is moving in the other direction.
Michael Gregoire, a USDA deputy administrator, said today they are looking to streamline the approval process and cut the time it takes to get new biotech crops approved (currently about three years) in half.
Under the rule changes, new versions of existing crop technologies, such as corn that produces a naturally occurring pesticide, would undergo a review lasting about 13 months, Gregoire said. That would be accomplished by making the agency’s determination final after a 30-day public review period, he said.
For new technologies, such as a crops engineered to tolerate a new herbicide, there will be a second comment period after the agency makes its preliminary decision, extending the overall duration of the review to about 16 months, he said.
And in a time of budget cuts for everyone from toddlers to grannies, somehow the USDA has gotten more money for its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) budget for biotech regulation - almost a 50% increase, to $18 million, which should also let them rush things through even quicker. Monsanto does seem to have a lot of friends in Washington. (See: Monsanto employees in the halls of government.)