About 40 activist organizations that usually can be counted upon to rally with the organic industry against genetically engineered (GE) plants and animals did just that on Monday. They weighed in with a letter to USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for the federal regulation of biotechnology products. APHIS has been inviting such comments, even holding web-based hearings, since last March as it withdrew work to update its 1990s rule for regulating GE organisms and decided to start over with a blank slate. GMO-Corn_406x250Yesterday was the deadline for providing written comments. APHIS also conducted a series of webinars in May. Still, it does not look like the whole exercise is generating much interest with fewer than 200 comments submitted by yesterday’s cutoff. Monday’s letter, which included some food company signatures as well as those from organizations, called for APHIS to “regulate biotechnology based process, not product.” The letter also called for adding noxious weeds to biotechnology regulations, which the signers want regulated to the “fullest extent.” In going for process over product, the jointly signed letter stated, “Genetic engineering may have higher rates of unintended and potentially harmful effects than traditional breeding.” Signing the letter were groups such as the Center for Food Safety and Food and Water Watch, organic businesses such as Amy’s Kitchen and Veritable Vegetables, and environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and the Pesticide Action Network North America. APHIS has specially asked members of the public to comment on whether regulation should be based on the “characteristics of biotechnology products and the potential risks they may pose, or by the process by which they were created?” The agency also asked if there are products and processes that it should not regulate. The agency also asked about noxious weeds. APHIS regulates biotechnology products under the authority of the Plant Protection Act, and the agency asked for public input on its authority outside the Plant Protection Act. Commenting before the APHIS deadline was the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. On June 18, it came down for mandatory biotechnology regulation. “GE contamination of organic seed constitutes irreparable harm to the organic seed industry. Crops grown from contaminated seed will ultimately yield a contaminated product. GE pollution undermines the integrity of organic seed: any detectable level is unacceptable,” the association’s letter stated. It was not immediately apparent if the Biotechnology Industry Organization has submitted comments. That organization just completed its BIO International Convention, which drew 15,858 people from 69 countries and 47 states to Philadelphia. It plans to change its name in early 2016 to Biotechnology Innovation Organization.