USDA Deregulates Two Monsanto Genetically Engineered Seeds

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced on Thursday its decision to deregulate two Monsanto genetically engineered (GE) seed varieties: a corn variety engineered to resist drought conditions and an herbicide-resistant soybean engineered to produce more fatty acids than regular soybeans.

Regulators legalized the seeds after reviewing risk assessments, public comments and data provided by Monsanto.

Monsanto is planning “on-farm trials” of drought-tolerant corn, known as MON 87460, during the upcoming planting season “to give farmers experience with the product” and generate commercial data, according to a statement from the company.

The corn contains a protein gene from a bacterium that reportedly limits yield loss when corn plants are stressed by drought conditions.

Earlier this year, Truthout exposed a controversial program in five African countries that involves putting Monsanto drought-tolerant corn in the hands of farmers facing drought conditions. The program is part of an effort funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which is working to establish a “Second Green Revolution” in Africa.

Critics say such efforts could replace traditional and sustainable farming methods with American-style industrial agriculture and prevent African governments from effectively regulating GE crops.

Last week, Truthout revealed that the USDA is taking steps to speed up the approval process for GE crops after industry groups put mounting pressure on top officials in recent years.

The USDA also announced a public comment period for two additional GE crop seeds, including another Monsanto soybean that is engineered to provide omega-3 fatty acids. Regulators have submitted favorable assessments of the seeds and are expected to approve them sometime next year. The public comment period on both products runs until February 27, 2012.