Friday, October 01, 2010

USDA official says it has no plans to limit herbicide-resistant crops causing weed problems

Despite growing reports of Roundup-resistant weeds, an Obama administration official told a House subcommittee on Thursday the administration is committed to the continued use of genetically engineered seeds. Ann Wright, a deputy undersecretary at the Department of Agriculture, told the House subcommittee USDA lacks authority to restrict herbicide-tolerant crops even if it wanted to, Philip Brasher of The Des Moines Register reports. "This administration and USDA see biotechnology as being a very import tool for farmers to use in addressing some very important issues, globally and domestically," Wright said.  "All the options we look at have to be supportive of that."

"Scientists link the resistance problem to farmers’ over-reliance on Roundup and crops such as soybeans and cotton that are genetically engineered to be immune to the weedkiller," Brasher writes. Wright countered that restricting use of herbicide-tolerant crops would force farmers to "return to older, often costly, and less environmentally friendly" ways of controlling weeds. USDA "can regulate herbicide-tolerant crops only to prevent them from becoming pests themselves, not to stop their use from leading to resistant weeds," Wright said.

The hearing was one in a series hosted by Ohio Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich, who was not pleased with Wright's comments. Kucinich argued USDA could "impose restrictions on herbicide-tolerant crops under its authority to control noxious weeds," Brasher writes. Wright admitted she wasn't familiar with the noxious weeds section of the law. Kucinich responded, "You’re really not? If the regulatory agency is not fully aware of the full extent of its authority then that may be why we’re having a problem here." (Read more)

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