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By Donna Voetee

August 20, 2006

I have a new hero.

He is Robert W. Young, the Assistant Inspector General for Audit of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and author of Audit Report 50601-8-Te that was released last December, �Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Controls Over Issuance of Genetically Engineered Organism Release Permits.�

Like the prophet Nathan before sinful King David, Mr. Young wags his honest pen in the face of the slothful, incompetent imbeciles who have failed miserably in their responsibility of checking the ambitions of mad scientists, greedy corporations, and corrupt politicians with the chains of the law.

Yet, did you hear the talk radio moguls, from Rush in New York to John and Ken in L.A., hashing it over? Did you see it in bold letters on the front page of your hometown newspaper? Did you hear of people being fired for failure to perform their jobs with due diligence? Or being indicted for criminal endangerment of the environment and our health? Have you heard of sweeping changes being made at the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and USDA due to the historical revelations contained in this report?

No, except for a few internet sites and the Des Moines Register and the Honolulu Advertiser, this disturbing report was relegated to the Annals Of Ignored Truth.

If Donald Trump had employees who performed like this governmental agency that holds the power of life and death over the entire food supply, they would hastily and forthwith be terminated. If the Constitution were applied properly, these ignoramuses would be charged with treason and made an example of to the fullest extent of the law, as most certainly imperiling an entire nation�s source of food and life is an act of war.

A little background before jumping in to the details of this chilling report. There are two ways of getting approval to grow genetically engineered food. The first is the more common method called notification, and this is for introducing �familiar GE plants that do not present novel plant pest risks.� The second is a permit, reserved for plants that are considered more dangerous, like those that produce pharmaceuticals or industrial compounds, or those with human genes.

While the notification process has eligibility and performance standards, the permit process has none; permits are approved on a case-by-case basis. This means, plainly, that the most dangerous GE crops are approved arbitrarily at an inspector�s whim. Are these inspectors honest and beyond temptation, even though they are in contact with the world�s most powerful Agri-Pharm and biotechnology corporations on a daily basis? We should certainly hope so.

Mr. Young writes:

�Since [1986], the USDA has approved over 10,600 applications for more than 49,300 field sites. �we are concerned that the Department�s efforts to regulate those crops have not kept pace...

�We found that APHIS, the USDA agency that oversees biotechnology regulatory functions for the Department, needs to strengthen its accountability for field tests of GE crops. In fact, at various stages of the field test process�from approval of applications to inspection of fields�weaknesses in APHIS regulations and internal management controls increase the risk that regulated genetically engineered organisms (GEO) will inadvertently persist in the environment before they are deemed safe to grow without regulation...

�We found�that APHIS lacks basic information about the field test sites it approves and is responsible for monitoring, including where and how the crops are being grown, and what becomes of them at the end of the field test.�

� Of primary concern, the precise locations of all GE field test sites planted in the United States are not always known.�

Did he just say that the government does not know WHERE the GE crops are planted, WHAT is being planted, and WHERE they end up?

More of the Audit Report:

�Before approving field tests, APHIS does not review notification applicants� containment protocols, which describe how the applicant plans to contain the GE crop within the field test site and prevent it from persisting in the environment. Instead, APHIS allows notification holders to provide the protocols verbally if their field test sites are selected for inspection. Since notifications comprise the vast majority of field test authorizations, this policy undermines both the field test approval and inspection processes.�

Did we just read that our government allows the planting of genetically engineered crops, whose safety is unknown, without a WRITTEN plan for keeping those crops from contaminating anything planted around them, or the entire environment, for that matter? And did Mr. Young just tell us that inspections are done with a phone call?

Have you ever wondered what happens to GE crops after the trial? Don�t ask APHIS who is supposed to track the disposal of these potentially lethal products! Note that these are the permit holders, the higher-risk category which includes drugs, industrial compounds, and even human genes!

�At the conclusion of the field test, APHIS does not require permit holders to report on the final disposition of GE pharmaceutical and industrial harvests, which are modified for nonfood purposes and may pose a threat to the food supply if unintentionally released. As a result, we found that two large harvests of GE pharmaceutical crops remained in storage at the field test sites for over a year without APHIS� knowledge or approval of the storage facility.�

Mr. Young continues to blast APHIS for many other violations, including failing to file progress reports late or not at all, not sufficiently documenting the scientific basis for approving applications, not tracking information during the field tests, including the results of the tests.

This comedy of errors would be funny if life and death were not on the line. The APHIS and its two units responsible for the inspection program, Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) and Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) make the Three Stooges look like a funeral requiem with their farcical pretense to work at protecting us all from famine. BRS is supposed to be management and PPQ labor, performing the actual inspections; but Mr. Young found that BRS �does not have a formal, risk-based process for selecting individual sites for inspection,� nor does PPQ �complete all of the inspections BRS requests, including�pharmaceutical and industrial crops.� So, they do what is expected of government agencies when the light shines in the dark: They lie. �We found that PPQ did not inspect all test sites five times during the 2003 growing season, as APHIS has announced to the public.�

Even when inspections do get done, it is likely that they will not be recorded. Mr. Young and his team found 11 violations that had been reported to BRS but had not been entered into the compliance infractions database. The same sad state of affairs had been discovered 10 years before, and to date the APHIS continues �to lack an effective, comprehensive management information system to account for all inspections and their outcomes.� Bottom line? ��No assurance that the highest risk field sites are inspected.�

Those of us who spend thousands yearly on home, car, and liability insurance will be horrified to hear the next revelation. Agri-Pharm corporations are not required to provide proof of financial responsibility in case of a catastrophe. �USDA [read: Joe Taxpayer] may have to bear the expense of removing GE material from the environment in the event of an unintentional release.�

By now, the myth of a highly efficient governmental agency diligently guarding us from dinnertime dangers has been busted. Now let us consider the fields themselves. Approved applicants (and we�ve seen how hard that is to get) �sometimes allow harvested crops to lie in the field test site for months at a time, their seeds exposed to animals and the elements.� The Audit team found a regulated edible GE crop, which had not been approved for human consumption, �growing where they could easily be taken and eaten��

The Audit team�s very obvious conclusions were that �GE crops and harvests �especially those developed for pharmaceutical and industrial purposes�must be carefully regulated�APHIS� current regulations, policies, and procedures do not go far enough to ensure the safe introduction of agricultural biotechnology.�

Recommended changes included documenting WHERE the crops are planted, even logging GPS coordinates (what an idea! Technology can find lost pets or stolen cars, why not potentially fatal food); obtaining the applicants� scientific protocols; documenting what is done with drug crops AFTER the experiment; requiring the applicants to provide proof of financial responsibility.

Common sense requests, right? APHIS did not think so; check out their arrogant, self-serving responses:

��APHIS disagreed with recommendations associated with obtaining notification applicants� scientific protocols for conducting field tests, reviewing these protocols by biotechnologists, and distributing these protocols to PPQ officers to use in conducting inspections of field sites under notification.

APHIS also contends that the current system of performance�based regulatory standards for notifications is effective at protecting the American agriculture.

Lastly, APHIS did not agree with developing policy guidelines for restricting public access to edible regulated crops when conducting field tests and with developing policies and procedures for selecting specific field test sites for inspection based on risk.�

Mr. Young�s Office, thank goodness, has the last word--

�By not obtaining copies of the protocols, APHIS is relinquishing its regulatory responsibility in favor of self-certification by the notification applicants�namely, the applicants merely certify in their notification applications that they will meet the performance standards.� (What he wanted to say: As a matter of fact, we believe that the Fox has guarded the Hen House long enough! And no, we don�t think that letting multi-national corporations certify the safety of their own products is a good idea.)

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�APHIS� strategic plan states that its mission includes protecting human health and safety. The edible GE crops under APHIS� jurisdiction are regulated and, therefore, we believe that access should be controlled. Edible regulated GE crops cannot be grown without restrictions and should not be available even for unauthorized human consumption, while still regulated.� (What he wanted to say: Do your job, you jerk!)

Now, if we could just get Mr. Young and his audit team over to the Federal Reserve�

� 2006 - Donna Voetee - All Rights Reserved

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Donna Voetee is the author of Supermarket Survival, a perpetual work of six volumes that indict aspartame, MSG, refined oil, xenoestrogens, artificial colors, and genetically engineered foods as the beginning of health sorrows. Although she has taught through Community Education at the local junior college, her favorite classroom is the grocery store, where she educates �students,� i.e., shoppers with diet soda or other venomous vittles in their carts. Donna and her husband of 32 years, Michael, live and work in their native Southern California.













Did we just read that our government allows the planting of genetically engineered crops, whose safety is unknown, without a WRITTEN plan for keeping those crops from contaminating anything planted around them, or the entire environment, for that matter?