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Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Infowar on Genetically Modified Crops
On August 25th, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for failure to adequately respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests related to genetically engineered (GE) crops. This marks the fourth time the CFS has sued APHIS to force the release of records.
The CFS accuses APHIS of failing to respond within a timely manner to at least 29 of their FOIA requests or appeals. The lawsuit is the center’s latest attempt to force APHIS to respond to FOIA requests and to order the agency to “stop its practice of failing to respond to FOIA requests related to GE crops.”
Cristina Stella, staff attorney for the Center for Food Safety, says that APHIS has a history of inadequate regulation of GMO crops. “In the absence of thorough government oversight, public access to information about these crops becomes all the more critical,” Stella said. “This lawsuit is necessary to stop APHIS from continuing to ignore its duty to provide the public with information that affects farmers, communities, and the environment.”
Stella also says that the longer APHIS fails to regulate the GMO crops, the more the environment will face damage, including transgenic contamination of nearby crops, pesticide drift, and endangerment of protected species.
“CFS has been seeking information about these harms for over ten years—and for over ten years, APHIS has continually ignored our requests. It cannot continue to do so,” she noted.
The CFS argues that APHIS has failed in several ways, including not responding to a FOIA request related to GE sorghum. The CFS says crops like GE sorghum were engineered by inserting genes that are not on APHIS’s “plant pest” list. This means the USDA does not have the authority to regulate the crops. CFS says this is allowing GE crops to spread without proper studies or public knowledge.
The CFS also says APHIS’s silence has made it more difficult to mitigate harm caused by GE crops that escape from field trials, known as “unauthorized releases.” Crops that escape could possibly contaminate traditional or organic crops. The group also charges that APHIS ignored requests for information related to field trials of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” creeping bentgrass.
Advancing the public’s knowledge on controversial topics like genetically engineered crops is vitally important. After all, in late July the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that would prohibit the labeling of GE crops, with the Senate expected to take up the bill in September.
Anti-Media recently reported that “independent GMO researcher” Kevin Folta, a professor and chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Gainesville, received a $25,000 grant from Monsanto. The revelation is a brutal reminder that every individual should do their own research and be skeptical of all official sources of information.