Environmental Groups blast USDA actions

Aug. 16, 2006 at 11:28 AM
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WASHINGTON, Aug. 16 (UPI) -- Environmental groups are harshly criticizing the U.S. Department of Agriculture for illegal testing of genetically modified crops in Hawaii.

The groups -- Washington's Center for Food Safety and Hawaii's Earthjustice -- are calling for a moratorium on all open-air GM crop tests citing a U.S. District Court ruling last week that the Agriculture Department repeatedly broke the law in allowing such tests in Hawaii, The Washington Post reported.

U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright late last week ruled the department's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service should have investigated whether the plants posed a threat to Hawaiian endangered species before issuing permits for the GM crops.

The corn and sugar cane crops had been modified to produce human hormones, drugs and ingredients for vaccines against AIDS and hepatitis B, the Post said.

In a 52-page ruling Seabright said, "APHIS's utter disregard for this simple investigation requirement, especially given the extraordinary number of endangered and threatened plants and animals in Hawaii, constitutes an unequivocal violation of a clear congressional mandate."

A Department of Agriculture inspector general's report in 2005 also found the department had ignored enforcement of research rules for genetically engineered plants, the newspaper said.

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