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Trump Ag Dept. eases the way for test-tube plants to spread to nature

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Sarah Okeson
Sarah Okeson

A USDA plan to loosen regulation of genetically modified crops could benefit Florida billionaire Randal Kirk whose company hired Trump fundraiser and lobbyist Roy Bailey.

Michael Gregoire, then the acting administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, withdrew a proposed regulation to give more power to APHIS to evaluate whether genetically modified plants could become harmful weeds. This happened just 21 days after Bailey became a lobbyist for Intrexon, one of Kirk’s companies.

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The regulation that Trump’s Agriculture Department drafted instead would let developers determine whether their crops should be regulated based on comparing plant traits to traits that already aren’t regulated. It becomes effective Aug. 17

“This common-sense approach will ultimately give farmers more choices in the field and consumers more choices at the grocery store,” said Greg Ibach, the USDA undersecretary for marketing and regulatory programs.

 

Kirk, who lives just 7.1 miles from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago in a house an LLC bought for $25.5 million in 2011, is estimated to be worth $2.2 billion. Intrexon, where Kirk was the CEO, bought a company that developed apples that don’t brown. Intrexon, which recently was renamed Precigen, sold the biotech parts of the company to another Kirk company, Third Security LLC, after Intrexon lost $509.3 million in 2018.

Records show Intrexon paid Bailey’s lobbying firm, Bailey Strategic Advisors, about $180,000 from 2017 through 2019 to meet with officials from the White House, the president’s office, the vice president’s office and agencies including the USDA.

Bailey also has served as the finance chair of America First Action, a super PAC that raised more than $40 million to try to re-elect Trump.

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The Center for Food Safety called the regulation “arbitrary and capricious and contrary to sound science.”

Under the Plant Protection Act, signed by President Bill Clinton, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is supposed to regulate genetically engineered crops to reduce risk of spreading plant pests or harmful weeds. But Trump’s regulation would allow the developers of genetically engineered plants to decide if their companies should be exempted.

The center said assessing the risk of plant pests must account for unintended as well as intended effects of genetic modification. For instance, the genetic engineering of Arctic apples to resist browning involved silencing genes that generate enzymes to help protect against disease and insects in some plants.

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APHIS only regulates genetically engineered plants that were produced using genetic material derived from plant pests such as the common soil bacteria Agrobacterium.

 

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‘Most people are not wearing masks’ as Trump hosts the ‘largest event since the start of the pandemic’ at the White House

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President Donald Trump on Saturday hosted the largest White House event since the start of the coronavirus lockdowns.

As attendees began to gather, the White House press corps posted photos of the event.

While the White House was asking people to wear masks, they were not required to attend the event.

Sign on the South Lawn of the WH for tonight's event: pic.twitter.com/wF6mxrWfLz

— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) July 4, 2020

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2020 Election

Montana GOP ticket sidelined after exposure to COVID-positive Trump, Jr. girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle: report

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The Montana Republican Party is facing a crisis after multiple members of the ticket were potentially exposed to COVID-19.

"Montana gubernatorial candidate Rep. Greg Gianforte and his running mate, Kristen Juras, confirmed Saturday they will self-quarantine after Gianforte's wife, Susan, and Juras attended an event last week with Kimberly Guilfoyle, who has since tested positive for COVID-19," KBZK-TV reported Saturday.

Gianforte is currently Montana's lone congressional representative. He is not running for reelection as he's running for governor. In June, the Montana GOP nominated State Auditor Matt Rosendale to replace him.

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‘Perhaps the most un-American speech ever delivered by an American president’: Ambassador McFaul

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President Donald Trump's address at Mount Rushmore was blasted as "un-American" by former U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.

McFaul retweeted a clip of the leader of the free world failing to pronounce the word, "totalitarianism."

"Trump has no idea what words like fascism and totalitarianism mean," McFaul, now a professor at Stanford, declared.

"To those who wrote this speech and those senior [White House] officials who approved this speech, shame on you. Perhaps the most un-American speech ever delivered by an American president and on the July 4th weekend no less," he explained.

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