Show me the Biopharming!

Judge orders USDA to ID biocrop locales

HONOLULU -- A federal judge has ordered the U.S. Department of
Agriculture to identify where four companies are performing open-field
testing of genetically modified crops in Hawaii.

U.S. District Judge David Ezra on Wednesday said the government must
reveal the locations to the environmental watchdog group Earthjustice and
the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit group that tracks food production
technologies.

The groups sued the government in November, alleging that the agency has
failed to properly regulate genetically engineered crops.

"It's definitely a victory," said Isaac Moriwake, an attorney for
Earthjustice. "It's basically an affirmation that the defendants haven't
been able to show that this kind of information is confidential."

The government and the biotech industry argued that public disclosure of
the sites could lead to crop vandalism and corporate espionage of trade
secrets.

"It's disappointing," said Lisa Dry, a spokeswoman for the Biotechnology
Industry Organization. If crop locations were made public, it would be "a
real detriment for continuing to do business in that area."

Ezra gave the USDA 90 days to prove that releasing the locations to the
public would cause irreparable damage to the biotech industry.

Earthjustice sought the locations of so-called "biopharms" to force the
USDA to conduct environmental impact statements before allowing open-
field crop research.

Biopharming is a relatively new area of research where plants are
engineered to produce nonfood items, such as drugs or industrial chemicals.

Michael Rodemeyer, executive director for the independent Pew Initiative
on Food and Biotechnology, said there are strong arguments on both sides
of the disclosure issue.

"Certainly there are ways to make more information available to
consumers," he said. "It's not clear that crop location information is
really going to help people understand more about what these safety
issues are.

"It may give them a greater sense of confidence, but that has to in turn
be weighed against the potential that these crops could end up being
destroyed which may end up spreading some of these crops around."

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TITLE: Judge orders USDA to ID biocrop locales
SOURCE: The Associated Press / SeattlePI.com, USA
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/apwashington_story.asp?
category=1152&slug=Biotech%20Crops
DATE: 6 Aug 2004