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Experimental GMO crops sprouting up across America, while USDA, the overseeing agency, takes 'industry-friendly approach'

GMO crops

(NaturalNews) Experimental crops genetically engineered to withstand high doses of pesticides are growing all over the U.S., and in some cases illegally. However, rarely does the biotech industry suffer repercussions, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency responsible for oversight, largely ignores violators.

Field trials involving genetically modified organisms (GMOs) serve a multitude of purposes, including both industrial and pharmaceutical applications. The USDA, responsible for protecting America's food supply, is supposed to oversee these field trials.

Documents obtained by Hearst Newspapers through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) disclosed a "swiftly expanding outdoor experimentation and industry-friendly oversight of those experiments," according to a report by the San Francisco Chronicle.

A careful review of the documents found that the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), an agency under the USDA responsible for regulating GMOs, among other duties, has been taking it pretty easy on violators, issuing just two civil penalties for field trial infractions since 2010, despite there being hundreds of notices of non-compliance.

The incidences range from minor paperwork violations to lost seeds and GMOs growing where they shouldn't be, according to a report by Seattlepi.com.

GMO inspectors issue only 2 citations despite there being at least 200 reports of non-compliance

Gebbers Farms of Brewster, Washington, a company growing GM apples, was among those penalized. Cited previously for growing GM apples too close to conventional apples, failing to keep good records and making no efforts to keep animals from getting to the crops, APHIS issued Gebbers a $19,250 fine.

APHIS is reportedly approving permits for pharmaceutical corn along Californian's Central Coast despite accusations that the company's founder contaminated Midwestern crops with GMOs, according to Hearst's investigation.

To date, nearly 20,000 field trials have been approved by APHIS, covering about 100,000 plantings of GMO crops. Only crops genetically engineered to produce pesticides are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Calling the USDA's job expansive would be an understatement.

No further tracking for GMOs once they hit the market

Once new forms of GMOs hit the market, there is no further monitoring or testing to determine potential unintended consequences (like health and environmental effects), highlighting the importance of field trials. The regulatory system's weakness prompted environmental groups to petition the USDA for stronger oversight of experimental crops.

"The ease with which people can test things in the open air troubles me," said Lynn Clarkson, a grain business operator who sells non-GMO seed. "We've essentially opened up parts of America for experimentation."

Instances of unapproved GM rice, canola, wheat and cotton found thriving across the country

In 2013, Monsanto's GM wheat was discovered growing wildly in Oregon, prompting anti-GMO countries like Europe and Japan to temporarily suspend all U.S. wheat imports. Canola genetically engineered to resist proprietary herbicides was found flourishing in North Dakota in 2010.

That same year, an experimental plot of cotton genetically engineered to resist pests was discovered growing in Texas, resulting in Monsanto being forced to pay a civil penalty of $18,690. Later referred to as "the Monsanto incident," the GM cotton, along with conventional cotton, was sent for processing.

While Monsanto maintains that humans ate none of it, they admitted that some of it entered the supply chain and was used for livestock feed in the U.S. and Mexico. Monsanto chalks the mistake up to "inadequate communication" and "human error."

Monsanto says it's conducted an estimated 26,000 field trials since 1990, amounting to one-fourth of the approximate 100,000 field trials in the U.S. The Missouri-based biotech company received at least 35 notices of non-compliance by APHIS in 2010 through 2013, more than any other company; however, the company was only issued one violation.

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