USDA FONSI for Transgenic Poplars Absurd and Dangerous

ISIS Press Release 07/03/08

Prof. Joe Cummins and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho expose cavalier risk assessment that ignores existing evidence and takes absence of evidence as evidence of absence

A fully referenced version of this report was submitted to USDA on behalf of ISIS.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (APHIS/USDA) received a permit application (APHIS number 06–250–01r) from Oregon State University to conduct field tests using clones of transgenic poplars and hybrids. Permit application 06–250–01r includes trees with 95 transgenic constructs categorized only by their intended traits, with little or no other details: reproductive sterility genes, genes affecting stature or reduced light response, genes modifying tree physiology, and activation tagging mutants aimed at developing “experimental domesticates”.

An Environment Assessment (EA) [1] prepared by APHIS for this permit was open for public comment for 30 days; and on 4 February 2008 APHIS published their evaluation of public comments and awarded the open field experiments with transgenic poplars the verdict FONSI [2](finding of no significant impact). Their response to public comments were aimed largely at those submitted by the Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) [3] (Unregulated Release of GM Poplars and Hybrids, SiS 36), and showed that APHIS’ reviewers support field tests particularly in areas where evidence of safety is entirely absent or insufficient. In such areas, the reviewers presumed that the transgenic trees are safe, and defy the public to produce evidence of hazard, thereby turning environmental assessment on its head. As the transgenic trees are novel, the purpose of APHIS’ EA was to provide evidence that they are safe, and where evidence of hazard is absent, it cannot be taken to be evidence that hazard is absent. The review even resorted to the irrelevant remark that Science in Society, published by ISIS, was not a credible science source, as it was a journal of “Marxist thought and analysis”, thereby also exposing the reviewers’ ignorance of both Marxism and Science in Society. We challenge any rational reader to find anything Marxist in Science in Society. Furthermore, the articles in question are all reviews of the scientific literature published in professional journals, which have been ignored by APHIS.

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