US organic farmers sue over GM crops

19 February 1999

US organic farmers sue over GM crops

ORGANIC farmers and environmental campaigners have filed a lawsuit against the US governments environmental watchdog, saying it unlawfully approved the planting of genetically modified (GM) crops.

The farmers claim the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) acted wrongly when it approved various GM crops which contain the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) organism.

The crops, which include Bt maize, contain the naturally occurring, soil-based bacillus which produces toxins that kill off certain insects.

Bt maize has been popular among conventional farmers in the USA because of its ability to guard against the damaging corn-borer without requiring pesticides.

It is estimated that up to 25% of the 1999 field maize crop will be BT maize – with the prediction that Bt varieties are grown on about 15 million acres in the US.

The lawsuit focuses on the environmental implications of the crops, claiming that Bt maize encourages pest resistance and ultimately makes it harder to treat crops using traditional means.

The plaintiffs also claim that contamination of non-genetically engineered crops can occur when pollen is transferred by wind or insects, and that there can be an effect on non-target insects and organisms.

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