Tuesday, December 13, 2011

USDA ‘hands were tied’

USDA claims ‘hands were tied’ in biotech approval
By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press
December 13, 2011

The USDA’s authority over genetically engineered crops was a top subject during recent oral arguments in a lawsuit over biotech alfalfa.

Attorneys for the agency repeatedly argued that its authority was limited, claiming “its hands were tied” in deciding to re-commercialize the crop, which can withstand glyphosate herbicides.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, had to base its decision on whether transgenic Roundup Ready alfalfa posed a plant pest risk, similarly to a virus or bacteria, attorneys said.

“In other words, APHIS is not the policy decision-maker in Congress’ stead to decide whether, as a matter of market preference, organic crops, conventional crops or indeed genetically engineered crops should dominate,” said Eric Womack, an attorney for the agency.

The USDA fully deregulated biotech alfalfa in early 2011 after completing a court-ordered environmental review of the crop. In 2007, a federal judge had overturned the agency’s previous approval of the crop.

The Center for Food Safety, a non-profit critical of transgenic crops, filed a lawsuit against the USDA, claiming that Roundup Ready alfalfa was deregulated in violation of administrative and environmental laws.

The group fears biotech alfalfa will cross-pollinate with organic and conventional crops, among other issues.

[Read More…]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Contamination without representation

Genetically modified crops - contamination without representation
By April Scott
November 17, 2011

If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against full federal deregulation of all GM crops

(SALEM, Ore.) - A public hearing is being held in Corvallis, Oregon this Thursday, November 17th to determine if Genetically Modified sugar beets will be deregulated in Oregon.

Meanwhile, the public comment period maybe just a local distraction giving way to full federal deregulation without any representation of organic and conventional crop farmers.

Let us not forget that the U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture held a formal hearing on Genetically Modified (GM) Alfalfa on Jan 20, 2011.

The hearing corresponded with an open 30-day comment period, designed to provide relevant testimony with regard to deregulation of Genetically Modified Alfalfa.

The democratic process neglected to include a single organic or conventional farming representative. Throughout the two hour hearing various legislators publicly humiliated the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsak for even suggesting any compromise through talks with the organic and conventional communities. They all but ordered him to stand down his conversations with anyone but pro-GM enthusiasts.

Representatives left no seed unturned in honor of their allegiance to biotech crops and complete penetration into all foreign and domestic markets. In fact, Minnesota‚Äôs Representative Collin Peterson referred to organic producers and consumers as “our opponents”.

[Read More…]

Groups entitled to attorney fees

Biotech opponents could receive millions
By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press
November 17, 2011

Judge says groups entitled to recover attorney fees

A group of biotechnology opponents has been awarded $1.6 million for winning a court battle over USDA’s commercialization of genetically engineered alfalfa.

A federal judge has found Geertson Seed Farms and other opponents of the crop are entitled to recover attorney fees and other costs from the federal government.

The award is primarily based on years of legal work conducted by the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit that has opposed several biotech crops.

That group is also poised to win roughly $2.7 million in attorney fees and other costs due to its litigation over transgenic sugar beets.

The amount of these awards has been contentious — USDA argued biotech critics only won limited victories in both cases and were entitled to much less money.

[Read More…]

Friday, June 24, 2011

Renewed alfalfa attack

Renewed alfalfa attack cites ESA
By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press
June 23, 2011

Biotech opponents have revived their argument that USDA’s deregulation of genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa unlawfully jeopardizes threatened and endangered species.

The Center for Food Safety, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit against the agency, has asked a federal judge in San Francisco to overturn USDA’s decision to fully commercialize the crop, which can tolerate glyphosate herbicides.

Aside from effectively requesting a moratorium on further planting of transgenic alfalfa, the group also wants the judge to issue an injunction that may limit or prohibit farmers from spraying the crop with glyphosate.

Biotech opponents claim the USDA failed to consult with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service before fully deregulating the crop earlier this year.

“We think that’s ridiculous and we think the court will find the same thing,” said Paul Achitoff, an attorney for Earthjustice who represents the plaintiffs.

[Read More…]

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New alfalfa lawsuit

New Lawsuit Challenges USDA Approval of GE Alfalfa
by Mary Rothschild
Food Safety News
March 19, 2011

As promised, attorneys for the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Friday, contending the agency erred when it allowed genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa to be grown without restrictions.

Organic and sustainable farming advocates are challenging the Jan. 27 decision by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to fully deregulate GE alfalfa, which is engineered to withstand the herbicide glyphosate. They fear that pollen drift and bees could cross-pollinate the altered alfalfa and natural varieties.

Alfalfa is a hay crop. Transgenic contamination of organic alfalfa could have economic consequences for the fast-growing, $20 billion organic milk industry, because those dairies would lose their source of organic feed.

“Approving the unrestricted planting of GE alfalfa is a blatant case of the USDA serving one form of agriculture at the expense of all others,” one plaintiff, Ed Maltby, executive director of the Northeast Alliance of Organic Dairy Producers, said in a news release. “If this decision is not remedied, the result will be lost livelihoods for organic dairy farmers, loss of choice for farmers and consumers, and no transparency about GE contamination of our foods.”

This is the second case challenging the legality of USDA’s handling of GE alfalfa.

[Read More…]

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