US EPA sued over GM crops

Greenpeace, farmers and consumers are suing the US EPA for approving genetically modified (GM) crops containing genes for the production of an insecticide made from the bacteria bacillus thuringiensis.

The lawsuit was filed by the International Centre for Technology Assessment (ICTA) on behalf of more than 650 organisations including Greenpeace, the Centre for Food Safety, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements, and the Sierra Club.

The groups charge that the EPA violated the law and agency regulations in approving genetically altered ‘Bt plants,’ crops which contain genes for the production of an insecticide called Bt which is made from the bacteria bacillus thuringiensis.

The lawsuit follows a petition to the EPA filed by the ICTA in 1997. Greenpeace says the agency did not respond to this petition.

“Genetically engineered crops are a threat to farmers, consumers, and the environment,” said Kalee Kreider, a Greenpeace spokesperson. “The evidence overwhelmingly backs our concerns, yet the agency refuses to act. The threat to farmers and the environment is imminent and requires immediate action.”

Joe Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety and the lead counsel on the case said, ” The EPA showed a blatant disregard for federal law and their own regulations when they registered Bt crops without assessing their safety. Their continuing failure to regulate this untested technology forces us to turn to the courts for protection.”

The lawsuit demands that the court directs the EPA to:

  cancel the registration of all genetically engineered Bt plants,

  cease the approval process for any new registrations, and

  immediately perform a programmatic environmental impact assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, analysing the initial registrations.

Plaintiffs include organic farmers from fourteen US states, who are concerned that the widespread cultivation of Bt plants will lead to the development of insect resistance to the Bt toxin.

Organic farmers are allowed to use Bt spray insecticides as their only emergency pest control option, but insect resistance caused by Bt plants would make Bt sprays ineffective.

“Organic farmers have used Bt responsibly for nearly forty years,” said Jim Gerritsen, a potato grower from Maine, “But transgenic Bt crops will lead to insect resistance in just a few years.”

Also joining the suit is a Wisconsin organic food producer who recently found their organic tortilla chips had been contaminated with genetically engineered corn, resulting in product recalls costing the company over $60,000. Terra Prima suffered huge losses when its Apache Brands organic corn chips tested positive for genetically engineered corn. An organic farmer the company has long relied on supplied the corn.

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