While President Barack Obama’s stances on GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in agriculture have become well known over the years, current President Donald Trump’s stance was a bit more of a mystery — until now.
Speaking to a crowd in Nashville, Tennessee on January 8, Trump finally used the word “biotechnology” for the first time as president, and did so in a positive way in reference to its uses in agriculture (GMOs).
Considering the economic impact the industry has on the United States’ bottom line, what Trump said should come as no surprise.
But for people in the natural and organic movement, it’s still likely to come as a serious disappointment (and challenge moving forward for that matter).
“Streamlining Regulations” for GMO Industry: Trump
In 1987, then-Vice-President George H.W. Bush visited Monsanto headquarters in the St. Louis, MO area and offered up a promise that would usher in a new area of GMO-focused agriculture: “Call me, we’re in the de-reg business.”
The comments were made to Monsanto executives on a tour, and were aimed at assuring them that the United States was “open for business,” and ready to begin the process of allowing the controversial technology that includes gene-splicing plants in a lab to be resistant to Monsanto’s herbicides.
Now, even as countries across Europe and around the world are banning the crops due to environmental and safety concerns, the U.S. appears ready to up the ante as the leading world producer of Monsanto and other companies’ GMOs.
“We are streamlining regulations that have blocked cutting-edge biotechnology, setting free our farmers to innovate, thrive, and to grow,” Trump said according to MIT Technology Review in Nashville at a meeting of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“Oh, are you happy you voted for me. You are so lucky that I gave you that privilege,” he continued according to the article.
Privilege Denied in the United States: GMO Labeling
Unfortunately for United States residents, the GMO experiment has come with a surprising additional price tag: foods containing these ingredients don’t come with plain text labels, a privilege afforded to citizens in over 60 countries around the world.
Considering that GMOs represent the biggest change to the basic constitution of our food supply in decades, that’s concerning to millions of people.
But millions of dollars spent by big food corporations have submarined the GMO labeling movement.
Vermont democratically passed a mandatory labeling bill in 2014, but it was superseded by a fast-tracked bill that had the effect of overturning it with Obama’s signature in August 2016. Now it is expected that a complex system of QR codes will be the standard for labeling, which critics deem overly complicated and discriminatory toward people without smart phones.
Trump Scraps Regulations; Market Could Flood with New GMOs
As noted in the MIT article, Trump has also already gotten rid of USDA rules that would have regulated foods made with CRISPR gene editing. This lack of regulation along with prior lax regulations has led to a pro-GMO climate the likes of which has never been seen for developers.
New GMO apples, potatoes and mushrooms, each using CRISPR gene editing (or gene silencing) technology, have been approved and more foods could be on the way.
While Trump has been mum about his official stance on GMOs, for many citizens who are tired of the same old politics in Washington and tired of eating lab-created foods (especially unlabeled in stores or dining out), his policies have been nothing short of disappointing.
He hasn’t signed any big name, infamous bills like the “Monsanto Protection Act” Obama did, but thus far, it’s hard to argue that his presidency has been anything short of a boon for Monsanto, Dow Chemical, and other large GMO and agrobusiness companies.
Considering the $350 billion-a-year behemoth the biotechnology industry has become, it’s easy to understand why — but no less frustrating for fans of organic and natural food to watch unfold.