The Department of Agriculture has been violating the Freedom of Information Act for over thirteen years, according to the Center for Food Safety (CFS), who is now suing the Agency for withholding information on the (lack of) safety of GMO crops.

CFS just filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), alleging that APHIS has violated FOIA by habitually failing to respond to requests for records related to genetically engineered (GE) crops, unlawfully delaying its responses, and preventing the public from being duly informed about this information.

APHIS does not respond in a timely manner to many of CFS’ requests; there have been at least 29. Two appeals and 10 requests have been ignored. The lawsuit asks the court to demand that the Department of Agriculture respond.

Cristina Stella, staff attorney for Center for Food Safety states:

“APHIS has a track record of irresponsible and inadequate regulation of GE crops. In the absence of thorough government oversight, public access to information about these crops becomes all the more critical. This lawsuit is necessary to stop APHIS from continuing to ignore its duty to provide the public with information that affects farmers, communities, and the environment.”

APHIS still oversees GE crops under regulations drafted in the 1990’s, and in March of this year suddenly abandoned its plans to update its GE crop regulations, which the agency had proposed to do since 2004. Under the current regulations, experimental field trials of GE crops have repeatedly been found to escape containment, and APHIS has refused to do its job to make sure that GMO cross-contamination does not occur.

Stella explains:

“The longer APHIS fails to use its full authority to regulate the environmental and agricultural harms from GE crops, such as transgenic contamination of nearby crops, pesticide drift, and endangerment of protected species, the more these harms will occur. CFS has been seeking information about these harms for over ten years—and for over ten years, APHIS has continually ignored our requests. It cannot continue to do so.”

This is the fourth time CFS has had to sue APHIS to compel compliance with FOIA, and is reportedly the most extensive challenge to APHIS’s pattern of unreasonable delays to date.

This article originally appeared at Natural Society.


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