Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Monsanto official: Climate change makes genetic crops more urgent

More than a dozen agencies now oversee some aspect of the country’s sprawling food supply chain. President Obama’s budget blueprint for fiscal 2016 calls for significantly cutting the bureaucratic overlap, a move supported by consumer safety groups and the Congressional Budget Office.
Each agency contributes unique expertise to the system, he said.
Normally, it would be rare to hear an executive support a large, complicated network of overlapping agencies versus a more simple system. But then again, Monsanto has done just fine under the status quo. The company, based in suburban St. Louis, generated about $16 billion in annual sales last year, mostly on the strength of its portfolio of products that genetically enhance crops like corn and soybeans to increase yields and resist pests and diseases.
More importantly, U.S. regulators use “decision making that’s science based,” Fraley said.
The distinction is important to Fraley and Monsanto. The company has fostered the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on farms around the world since the 1990s. Consequently, Monsanto is public enemy No. 1 for critics who say such “Frankenfoods” are unsafe for consumers and bad for the environment.
As a food and agriculture reporter in St. Louis in the early 2000s, I witnessed firsthand the controversy, which has ranged from spirited debate to outright hysteria.
More than a decade later, not much has changed. Some state lawmakers want to require food manufacturers to label foods made from GMOs, though Fraley has previously expressed support for a national system to label GMO-free foods. In any case, GMOs are well established in the American food supply, and that’s unlikely to change even if Obama consolidates food regulation. No matter how wild the conspiracy theories.
For example, activists recently accused the federal government of conspiring with Monsanto to — and I’m not making this up — create the severe drought in California.


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