Friday, August 28, 2015

Organic Advocacy Group Sues USDA

Written by Stephen Kenney

On August 25, 2015, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed suit against the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for violating the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  CFS sought records from APHIS related to the proposed Plant Protection Act Regulations.  CFS requested in its complaint that the court order APHIS to disclose all the non-exempt records that CFS requested. CFS is a non-profit entity that advocates for and promotes organic and similar types of agriculture production.  APHIS is tasked with regulating genetically engineered organisms which it does under the Plant Protection Act.

CFS alleged in the complaint that APHIS has routinely violated FOIA when CFS has requested information regarding APHIS’s oversight of GE crops.  In addition to the disclosure of the requested documents, CFS seeks a court declaration that APHIS has a pattern of failing to timely respond to CFS’s FOIA requests and to order APHIS to make amendments to its FOIA Handbooks and procedures to ensure compliance with FOIA in the future.

APHIS published its proposed updated GE crop regulations in 2008.  The proposal was officially withdrawn on March 4, 2015.  CFS made a FOIA request about the decision when the group first learned that APHIS was planning to withdraw the proposed updated GE regulations in December 2014.  Nine months later, CFS had not received any records from APHIS.  CFS claimed that this is not an isolated incident and that it has made dozens of FOIA requests to APHIS regarding the regulation of GE crops since 2002.  CFS further claimed that APHIS had failed to respond timely to twenty-nine of those claims.  

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