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Internat'l Center for Technology Assessment Lawsuit

Note:  This lawsuit may still be pending a couple bills before Congress (HR 3377, S2080) as of January, 2001.  The Center has submitted a petition to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require labeling and testing of all genetically-altered food products.  FDA is considering requiring testing of some products and "voluntary" labeling by manufacturers.  See Center Fact sheet and visit Union of Concerned Scientists  for more info.

TRANSGENIC B.T. PLANTS Summary of Action On September 17, 1997 CTA, along with Greenpeace International, the Sierra Club, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM is the only global federation of organic farmers, processors and certifiers with more than 650 member organizations in 100 countries) and 30 other environmental and organic agricultural organizations filed a legal petition charging the Environmental Protection Agency with the wanton destruction of the world's most important biological pesticide. The natural toxins produced by a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis (B.t), are essential to a 21st century agriculture based on biological controls and not the use of synthetic insecticides.

The petition seeks to stop EPA's FIFRA registration of the "transgenic" B.t. plant pesticides for plant propagation. As of 1998, more than twenty were approved or pending approval world- wide. Numerous companies such as Monsanto, Novartis, Pioneer, and AgrEvo have already begun commercialization of transgenic B.t. plants. The petition charges that in approving transgenic B.t. plants EPA has failed to address the potentially devastating environmental impacts of these genetically engineered plants. These include: 1). The dissemination of transgenic B.t. plants will lead to the development of B.t. (multiple) resistance in major pests within a relatively short period of time (2-10 years); 2). The planting of transgenic B.t plants will result in the transfer of B.t. traits to progenitor plants and wild relatives; and 3). Transgenic B.t. plants will have a negative impact on non-target organisms.

CTA has requested that EPA:

(1). Cancel the registrations of all genetically engineered plants that contain the B.t. pesticide;

(2). Cease and desist from taking any new registration procedures, or determinations of registration, for any genetically engineered plants that express the B.t. pesticide;

(3). Pursuant to 40 CFR Part 154, immediately undertake Special Review procedures for all registered genetically engineered plants that express the B.t. pesticide; and

(4). Pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) complete a programmatic impact statement analyzing the agency's registering of genetically engineered plants that express B.t. In a partial response to the CTA B.t. legal petition, the EPA held a Scientific Advisory Panel to discuss issues surround B.t. resistance. During the public meeting, CTA legal director Joseph Mendelson testified and reiterated its petition demands. CTA also reiterated that expected EPA to adhered to its stated Spring of 1998 response date to the CTA.

The EPA recently released the finding of the Scientific Advisory Panel and is formulating its response to the legal petition. If a positive response to its original petition is not received in the near future, CTA will consider filing litigation. 2. Embargoed for Release Until: February 18, 1999

For more information contact: Joseph Mendelson, CFS, 202-547-9359 Racine Tucker-Hamilton, Greenpeace 202/319-2435 or 202/256-4041

GREENPEACE, CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY AND ORGANIC FARMERS SUE E.P.A. OVER GENE-ALTERED CROPS Press Conference, Thursday, February 18, 1999 9:30 A.M. National Press Club, Zenger Room

Environmentalists, farmers and consumers filed a lawsuit today to force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to resolve an issue they say the agency has stalled on for more than a year, risking environmental damage and the loss of the world's most important biological pesticide. Today's lawsuit was filed by the Center for Food Safety on behalf of itself, Greenpeace, the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM, with 650 member organizations representing farmers, processors, and certifiers in 100 countries), and over seventy other U.S. organic farmers, farming organizations and environmental groups.

The groups charge that EPA violated the law and agency regulations in approving genetically altered "Bt plants," crops which contain genes for the production of an insect icide called bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). The lawsuit follows a petition to the agency filed by the groups in late 1997. EPA has failed to respond to this petition despite increasing evidence of the environmental risks of Bt crops. "Genetically engineered crops are a threat to farmers, consumers, and the environment, " said Charles Margulis, a Greenpeace Genetic Engineering specialist. "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." Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety and the lead counsel on the case stated, "EPA has shown a blatant disregard for federal law and its own regulations by approving Bt crops without fully assessing their environmental safety. Their continuing failure to regulate this untested technology forces us to turn to the courts for protection." The Center for Food Safety is a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the impacts our food production system on human health, animal welfare and the environment.

Today's lawsuit demands that the court direct EPA to: (1) cancel the registration of all genetically engineered Bt plants; (2) cease the approval process for any new registrations , and (3) immediately perform a programmatic environmental impact assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act (analyzing the cumulative impacts of all Bt plant registrations).

Also joining the lawsuit today were organic farmers from twenty-one states, who are concerned that the widespread cultivation of Bt plants will inevitably lead to the rapid development of insect resistance to the Bt toxin. Organic farmers are permitted the use of Bt spray insecticides as their only emergency pest control option, but insect resistance caused by genetically engineered Bt plants would make Bt sprays ineffective.

The future viability of organic farming is thus threatened by the agency's approval of Bt crops. "Organic farmers have used Bt responsibly for nearly forty years," said Jim Gerritsen, a plaintiff and potato grower from Maine, "But genetically engineered Bt crops will lead to insect resistance in just a few years. My ability to provide consumers with quality, organic produce should not be compromised for the short-term benefit of the biotech industry."

Also joining the suit today 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 $100,000. Terra Prima, Inc., 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. According to company official Charles Walker, Terra Prima was forced to pull product from stores in seven European countries when the contamination was discovered. "Our customers demand organic food because they want to know that the food they eat is free from untested genetic manipulation. We feel that this is their right, yet genetically engineered crops in the environment threaten our ability to provide them with pure food." Greenpeace is the leading independent organization that uses peaceful and creative activism to protect the global environment.