Important components must be ensured for USDA’s proposed new pilot program, in which

Under the agency’s new two-year pilot project, biotech developers would conduct their own environmental assessment of transgenic crops or pay contractors to perform the analysis.

Then USDA would review the reports and approve them or send them back for more study. All well and good sounding. However, there’s more that the watchdogs, such as the Center For Food Safety, should be getting USDA to  hold to for this pilot approach.

Important components here include maintaining in the public domain every iota of information. That includes making public all contracts between a biotech company and their “hired gun” consultants, and all reports, be they draft internal ones or otherwise. Further, all requests for confidentiality tied to “Trade Secret” claims or otherwise need to be disallowed. This is a pilot program, so let’s let it all hang out. Let the lobbyists and attorneys complain. If the biotech industry is secure in its position, it will welcome this openness.

And there’s another thing. Efficacy. There’s little doubt that many products, be they GM or or otherwise, don’t do what the PR/marketers/hypers say they will do. Experiments are done under ideal conditions, and there’s a lot of impetus to get something out of huge research dollars, even when a product might not really live up to all the puffery the marketers will create. Given the downside (frankenfish, for example), can we really afford to have this stuff out there that really is no improvement over what’s already out there? So, let’s make them swear that they are really coming up with an improvement, and limit amount of puffery they can use in marketing. It might make them think twice, which can only be a good thing.