What if our newest invasive species is one that started in the lab and was unleashed on an unsuspecting world despite abundant warnings from scientists and others? And what if it is not even really “natural” to begin with? And what if this new invasive species, once liberated from a controlled setting, became even more potent and more persistent in the wild? Then you would be talking about genetically modified (GM) canola, which according to a report presented Friday at the Ecological Society of America, is now growing in the wild and is busily evolving into a plant that will outstrip our best efforts to contain it. It also has the potential to cross-pollinate and swap genes with other non-GM wild plants. More than 83% of the wild canola tested by researchers traveling through North Dakota tested positive for GM genes. But this is what’s really terrifying: some of the plants tested positive for resistance to both glyphosphate (Roundup) and glusfosinate (Liberty). Commercial GM canola is resistant to either Roundup or Liberty, not both. The dual resistance evolved in the wild, after the plants had escaped. The wild canola is doing what living things do—mutating and selecting for traits that will best ensure its survival. And all without our help.
“It’s disheartening — even tragic — that a program that costs so little yet does so much to keep our food supply safe is not being funded,” said Dr. Mark Lutschaunig, director of the A.V.M.A.’s Government Relations Division. “We’re talking about a cost of less than a penny per American to help keep meat, eggs and dairy products free of drugs and pesticides.”
It’s Really Come to This: Critical Food Supply Safety Program Closing Due to Lack of Funds
It’s a sad, sad day for food safety in America. Despite our best efforts to convince Congress, USDA and FDA to come up with long-term funding for FARAD, the critical food safety resource is permanently shutting down. The result: information essential to protecting America’s food supply is being left in the lurch.
FARAD – The Food Animal Residue Avoidance Databank – began shutting down yesterday. For 26 years, FARAD has been used by veterinarians, livestock producers, and state and federal regulatory and extension specialists to ensure that drug, environmental and pesticide contaminants do not end up in meat, milk, and eggs. This shouldn’t come as news to our regular readers. We’ve been telling you about the importance of FARAD for months.
The program needed an immediate cash infusion to stay open, and, ultimately, long-term funding of $2.5 million per year to continue its critical work. Really, that’s all it needed… less than a penny per American to help make sure that drugs and pesticides don’t end up in our food. A penny per American, folks. That’s it.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has been leading efforts to secure funding for FARAD, which is administered by the USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service and operates out of North Carolina State University, the University of Florida and the University of California-Davis. The AVMA worked with Congress to have language authorizing FARAD at $2.5 million inserted in this year’s Farm Bill. Unfortunately, the USDA never incorporated the funding in its budget, and Congress has provided neither emergency funding, nor passed the agriculture appropriations bill that could have funded the program. Oh and, FDA hasn’t coughed up any pennies either.
It’s tragic that a program that costs so little yet does so much to keep our food supply safe is not being funded. Again, we’re talking about pennies, folks.
The last-ditch hope of keeping FARAD from completely closing is for the USDA or stakeholders to fund the program. The AVMA is planning an emergency stakeholder meeting to discuss the future of FARAD.
In the interim, we urge all Americans to call the USDA at 1-202-720-1542 and tell them to immediately provide $2.5 million in emergency funding for FARAD.