Health
Greenpeace Wins First Round in EPA Lawsuit to Ban Bt Crops

Reuters poll shows farmers not waiting for decision but moving away from Bt seeds.

WASHINGTON, January 19, 2000 -- A top court has agreed to hold the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency accountable for its decision to legalize the planting of genetically modified crops. In the opening session of Tuesdayís oral hearings against the EPA, Judge Louis F. Oberdorfer of the Federal District Court of Washington, D.C., stated he would "hold [EPAís] feet to the fire" and ordered the agency to respond to Greenpeaceís charges within 60 days.

Last February, Greenpeace and a coalition of over 70 plaintiffs, including the Center for Food Safety and the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements, sued the EPA, charging the agency with the wanton destruction of the world's most important biological pesticide -- Bt. This natural pesticide has been used sparingly by organic farmers for years but is now under threat from genetically engineered crops.

Scientists warn that corn genetically engineered with the Bt pesticide in each of its cells could lead to insect resistance within 3 to 4 years, thereby wiping out the effectiveness of Bt for organic farmers. By aiding in this process, the EPA may force the use of more and newer pesticides in the near future. Studies also have shown pollen from Bt corn to be toxic to monarch and other butterfly larvae.

"This is a great, first legal victory for the environment and for farmers who do not plant genetically modified seed," said Beverley Thorpe of the Greenpeace GMO campaign. "It is essential we get these gene-altered crops off our fields and out of our environment."

Market rejection of Bt corn has cost U.S. farmers more than $200 million in export revenue last year. A recent Reuters poll of 400 farmers (taken at the annual meeting of the nationís largest farm organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation) predicted a 24 percent decline in the planting of Bt corn and a 26 percent decline in the planting of Bt cotton this year. Currently, Bt corn is grown on approximately 20 million acres in the U.S., and Bt cotton on about 7 million acres.

Greenpeace is calling on the EPA to halt all new and current licenses for genetically engineered crops in the U.S., and to urgently reevaluate the promotion of genetically engineered agriculture with an eye toward focusing funding on sustainable agriculture.

CONTACT:

Beverley Thorpe, (202) 319-2412

Charles Margulis, Greenpeace, (202) 258-3029 (mobile)

Andrew Kimbrell, counsel and director of Center for Food Safety, (202) 547-9359.

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