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October 23, 2012

Enviros beat Interior on GMO plantings

#Environmental groups have won a challenge to #Interior Department policies that permit planting of genetically modified corn and soybeans on National Wildlife Refuge land.

In an 11-page ruling Tuesday, U.S. District Judge James E Boasberg handed a victory to Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Food Safety, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. The three groups had sued over Fish and Wildlife Service policies in the 430,000 square-mile Southeast Region, spanning 128 wildlife refuges in 10 states.

The Fish and Wildlife Service allowed the planting of genetically engineered crops on some 44,000 acres of refuge land in the Southeast Region. Typically, these crops were corn and soybeans that have been developed to be resistant to the broad application of the herbicide Roundup. The environmental groups assert use of such genetically engineered herbicide-resistant crops has numerous adverse environmental impacts.

Interior officials tried to make the challenge go away by agreeing not to allow the plantings any more pending full environmental study. Not good enough, the judge ruled. Reasoned Judge Boasberg:

"Although Defendants have indicated that they will no longer permit farming of genetically modified crops in Southeastern Refuges after the 2012 growing season, Plaintiff’s case is not moot because this decision has not completely and irrevocably eradicated the effects of the alleged violation."

Next up: a Nov. 5 hearing to discuss potential remedies, which could range from specifying clean-up procedures to public disclosures of the treated fields.

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GMO Aware

The desire to know about more the foods we're eating still exists despite the disappointing failure of the GMO labeling mandate of Proposition 37. If you want to avoid GMOs in your food, there are still alternatives, including buying organic, as any product that carries the USDA organic seal cannot contain GMOs. In addition, be sure to pay attention to the little stickers on your grocery store produce. The numbers on these sticker indicate how the produce was farmed: 4 digits = conventionally farmed, likely subjected to herbicides and/or pesticides; 5 digits, beginning with 9 = organic certified, no GMOs, pesticides, or herbicides; 5 digits, beginning with 8 = conventionally farmed and GMO, almost certainly subjected to herbicides and/or pesticides. Stay healthy.

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Interior officials tried to make the challenge go away by agreeing not to allow the plantings any more pending full environmental study. Not good enough, the judge ruled.

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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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