Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

A rally in support of GMO labeling in Connecticut.

A rally in support of GMO labeling in Connecticut. (Photo: CT Senate Democrats)

'Anything But Secure': Advocates Decry USDA Rule Allowing Big Ag to Set Its Own Regulations on GMOs

"The new regulations finalized by USDA, paradoxically named the SECURE rule, are anything but secure."

Eoin Higgins

Food safety advocacy groups objected to the Trump administration's latest assault on the country's agricultural regulatory framework as the Department of Agriculture announced Thursday it would leave oversight on GMOs to the companies producing the organisms.

"There is a need for adequate safeguards and effective regulatory oversight to ensure that there aren't unintended consequences to biodiversity from these new technologies," Aviva Glaser, director of agriculture policy at the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement responding the rule, "but unfortunately, USDA's rule falls short of achieving this."

The new "SECURE rule" (pdf) would allow companies involved in gene editing (GE) to avoid government oversight if the companies themselves determine the editing involves modifications that could be achieved through traditional breeding. Critics charge that the new rule leaves that determination up to the companies themselves, removing two regulatory checks in one swoop. 

"While some genetically engineered products are safe and beneficial, the federal government needs a regulatory system that tracks product development and ensures safety before products are marketed," said Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) biotechnology project director Gregory Jaffe. "We support science- and risk-based federal oversight of genetically engineered plants to ensure they are safe to humans and the environment before they are released for cultivation or restoration, but today's final regulation does not achieve that result."

According to the CSPI, the rule change flies in the face of the desires of a broad coalition of interested groups:

Despite a unified position from environmental groups, consumer organizations, biotech crop developers, and food industry stakeholders imploring USDA to eliminate a provision allowing crop developers to self-determine whether their products are regulated, the Trump administration refused to require developers to even notify the agency of products they believe are exempt under the new regulations.

Center for Food Safety senior attorney Sylvia Wu said in a statement Friday that the USDA was trying to use a needed update to an outdated set of rules to push through yet another industry-friendly policy that could have ramifications for the country's food supply. 

"While revisions to USDA's regulations—first drafted in 1987—are necessary in order to ensure that the regulatory scheme adequately addresses the harms associated with current GE technology, the new regulations finalized by USDA, paradoxically named the SECURE rule, are anything but secure," said Wu.

"Instead of fixing long-standing deficiencies and strengthening the regulatory system to guarantee proper oversight of new GE technologies and their associated risks, the revised regulations dramatically scale back USDA's regulatory authority, leaving most GMOs unregulated," Wu added.

Bottom line, said Consumer Federation of America director of food policy Thomas Gremillion, "consumers have a right to know how gene editing is being used to produce the foods they buy in the market."

"This rule will undermine public confidence in the food supply," Germillion said, "and ultimately set back beneficial uses of this technology."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Opposing His Renomination, Warren Calls Fed Chair Powell 'A Dangerous Man'

"Your record gives me grave concern," Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Jerome Powell. "Over and over, you have acted to make our banking system less safe."

Jake Johnson ·


Press Freedom Groups to Convene People's Tribunal on Murders of Journalists

"We're taking killers of journalists to The Hague because states won't do it."

Julia Conley ·


Greta Thunberg, Vanessa Nakate Excoriate World Leaders for 'Blah, Blah, Blah' Climate Failures

While Uganda's Nakate said humanity "cannot adapt to extinction," Thunberg from Sweden said lack of action is "a betrayal of all present and future generations."

Andrea Germanos ·


Flotilla Protest at Manchin's Yacht Tells Right-Wing Democrat: 'Don't Sink Our Bill'

"He's not listening to us, he's listening to Big Money. That's why we're here at his yacht in D.C."

Jake Johnson ·


'We Aren't Bluffing': Progressives Hold the Line as Pelosi Moves Ahead With Bipartisan Bill

"If we don't pass our agenda together—that's infrastructure AND paid leave, child care, climate action, and more—then we're leaving millions of working people behind."

Jake Johnson ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo