POSTED: 1 MARCH 2007 - 8:00am HST

Approval of GM Crops Illegal, US Federal Courts Rule

Image from French ad for Syngenta herbicide. Should that man be walking barefoot through that field?

The courts said it three times so it must be true
by Prof. Joe Cummins and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho on 1 March 2007 in ISIS
(The Institute of Science in Society)

In a surprising development that may well stump the further approval of GMOs, Federal Courts in the US have ruled against the Department of Agriculture (USDA) in three successive cases for failing to carry out proper environment impact assessment, making the original approvals of GM crops illegal.

It has been twelve years since the world's first GM crop, the Flav Savr tomato, was commercially approved, and hundreds more GM varieties were granted deregulation status. The global area of GM crops has reached 102 million hectares, according to industry sources [1], though this has been strongly contested around the world [2] ( Global GM Crops Area Exaggerated)

The first case was on drug-producing GM crops. A federal district judge in Hawaii ruled in August 2006 that the USDA violated the Endangered Species Act as well as the National Environmental Policy Act in allowing drug-producing GM crops to be cultivated throughout Hawaii, and failing to conduct even preliminary investigations on environmental impact prior to the approval of planting. The plaintiffs were the Center for Food Safety, KAHEA (The Hawaiian Environmental Alliance) , Friends of the Earth, and the Pesticide Action Network, North America. The defendants were the US Secretary of Agriculture and administrators of the USDA.

From 2001 to 2003, four companies, ProdiGene, Monsanto, Hawaii Agriculture Research Center (HARC), and Garst Seed, were allowed to plant corn and sugarcane genetically modified to produce experimental pharmaceutical products such as vaccines, hormones, cancer fighting agents and other proteins that are still under development and hence not yet approved.

The plaintiffs argued that USDA/APHIS broke the law in issuing these permits. Because these crops produce pharmaceutical products that are still at the experimental stage of development, their effect on Hawaii's ecosystem (especially Hawaii's 329 endangered and threatened species) is unknown. The experimental crops could cross-pollinate with existing food crops, and contaminate the food supply. Animals feeding on the crops would also become unwitting carriers of pharmaceutical products, causing even more widespread dissemination of these experimental drugs.

The court concluded that APHIS' issuance of four permits was “arbitrary and capricious” and “an unequivocal violation of a clear congressional mandate” [3].

The second ruling was even more significant. A case was filed in Federal Court Washington DC against the trials of GM creeping bentgrass by the Center for Food Safety, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center, and other individuals and organizations in 2003. In February 2007, the court gave a decision that broadly affects field trials of all GM crops. Federal district judge Harold Kennedy ruled that the USDA must halt approval of all new field trials until more rigorous environmental reviews are conducted. USDA's past approval of GM herbicide-tolerant creeping bent grass led to widespread dispersal of pollen from the GM grass, and USDA's approval of bent grass trials was ruled illegal [4].

The third decision was on a case filed in Northern California by the Center for Food Safety, environment activists, seed producers and farmers. A Federal Court ruled (February 2007) that Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa had been approved for commercial release illegally, because there had been no Environment Impact Statement. [5]. According to Center for Food Safety, The decision may prevent this season's sales and planting of Monsanto's GM alfalfa and future submissions of other GM crops for commercial deregulation.

Joseph Mendelson, spokesperson for the Center for Food Safety said to a reporter for Science journal [6] that his group may demand an end to sales of GM alfalfa or even a ban on planting GM seed already bought by farmers, while the USDA declined to comment,

Predictably, perhaps, the pro-GM lobby has been toning down the significance of the claims [6], reporting that, “U.S. courts say transgenic crops need tighter scrutiny”.

In all three cases, USDA was found to have flouted the law and disregarded health and environmental concerns in their approvals of the GM crops. The failure to identify the locations and the exact nature of GM crops being tested must also be addressed along with the frivolous use of Confidential Business Information designations to conceal crucial information for safety evaluation and the persistent regulatory bias towards the uncritical acceptance of GM crops.

In the United States, as in Canada, Europe and the UK, a clean sweep of the regulatory regime is long overdue, while a global ban of all further releases of GMOs is in order [7] ( GM Food Nightmare Unfolding and the Regulatory Sham).



POSTED: 23 FEBRUARY 2007 - 9:00am HST

by Amanda C. Gregg on 23 February 2007 ©The Garden Island News

Another complaint has been filed against international GMO company Syngenta Seeds Inc., after several teachers at Waimea Canyon Elementary School claimed they were sick from airborne herbicides that reached their classrooms.
In a statement filed with the Department of Agriculture, several teachers allege that Syngenta sprayed Touchdown HiTECH on Jan. 23 on the field near the school while faculty was present.

“This is a complicated issue that deals with complicated chemicals that are beyond our expertise at times,” Tom Perry, director of the Hawai‘i State Teachers Association on Kaua‘i, said.

“That’s why we need to see if it’s being applied following (EPA) guidelines.”
This is the second complaint involving the school and company within the past three months, as a hazardous-materials team and the state DOA were called to the school Nov. 13 after students reported symptoms of congestion, dizziness and nausea.

At least 10 students went home ill that day.

The reported symptoms in November coincided with an herbicide application on a field roughly one-quarter mile away, Bob Boesch, pesticide program manager for the Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture, said.

Officials ruled out herbicides and determined that “stink weed” was the cause of the adverse reactions. The DOA’s report on the incident determined Syngenta applied its herbicides “legally.”

However, in the most recent complaint, a teacher’s videotape captures a Jan. 23 image of rising mist from equipment applying Touchdown HiTECH on the field adjacent to the school.

The video, which shows airborne spray, has now become part of the DOA’s second investigation involving the two entities.

Perry said teachers called Syngenta and complained that the herbicide was making them feel ill, noting that the operator of the sprayer did not stop until the entire application was finished, roughly 30 minutes later.
Several concerned teachers said it has become increasingly difficult to monitor the problem.

On the condition of anonymity, one teacher said since the November incident, “enough students reported to the health room with ‘flu-like’ symptoms to warrant teacher notification of illness ‘spikes,’” noting a concern that media attention might preclude the health aide, a Department of Health Employee, from disclosure of such “spikes.”

The teacher also said the incidents corresponded with Kona, or west winds, and occurred after spraying.

While the EPA allows use of the herbicide, it is a violation of federal law to apply it inconsistently with its instructions.

Labeling on Touchdown HiTECH specifically states that the product should not be applied in “a way that will contact workers or other persons, either directly or through drift.”

Perry said the claim that Syngenta is in compliance with its spraying is false.
“We have a picture of that spray becoming airborne,” Perry said. “They are not complying with EPA standards.”

Because the DOA report could take several weeks or months to create, Perry met on Feb. 8 with school administrators and representatives from the company to try to establish a “spraying protocol.”

“The main point of contention we had at that meeting was they were not willing to stop spraying immediately if teachers or students complained of illness when Syngenta was spraying,” Perry said. “If they really care about the community and the teachers, why wouldn’t they want to take the safest possible route and stop spraying immediately?”

Tom Gahom, of Syngenta in Minneapolis, said the company did receive a call from a teacher that day and did “follow protocol.”

“We stopped spraying, checked the sprayer just to make sure they were functioning properly,” Gahom said. “The settings were at a very low setting, which means a low amount was coming out.”

According to a letter dated Feb. 16 from Syngenta, the company will cease its herbicide application if it receives a complaint and will modify the spray schedule, “if warranted.”

While the DOA conducts its second investigation, Perry said he hopes staff will catalog anything they witness that could be a health risk to themselves or the students, he said.

see also:
Island Breath: Syngenta Spraying

Island Breath: Palm Oil Biodiesel
Island Breath: Native Grass Fuel
Island Breath: Waimea School & GMO's
Island Breath: GMO News
Island Breath: GMO permit requests
Island Breath: GMO Papaya Contamination
Island Breath: Hawaii Taro Patents
Island Breath: GMO crops & superweeds
Island Breath: BioPharming Lawsuit
Island Breath: GMO Algae in Hawaii
Island Breath: China & Kraft GMO
Island Breath: GMO Free Kauai
Island Breath: GMO free Molokai
Island Breath: Mendocino GMO ban
Island Breath: GMO Experiments

Island Breath: GMO Rice

Island Breath: GMO in Hawaii

Island Breath: The Future of Food
Island Breath: Percey Schmeizer