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Hawaii Fights Pharmaceutical Plantings

The practice of using genetically engineered crops to produce proteins that can be turned into medicines has faced growing opposition from farmers, environmentalists and big corporate food interests whose businesses might be affected by contamination. The medicinal Awa plant is an example of threatened vegetation.

A federal judge has ruled that U.S. agriculture officials violated environmental laws in permitting four companies to plant genetically modified crops in Hawaii to produce experimental drugs. The order involves plantings of corn or sugarcane on Kauai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu between 2001 and 2003. U.S. District Judge Michael Seabright said the Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service flouted both the Endangered Species Act and National Environmental Policy Act by not conducting preliminary environmental reviews before issuing the planting permits. The islands are home to 329 rare species—a quarter of all threatened and endangered species in the nation, the judge noted in the order issued late last week. Even if the inspection service is correct in its assertion that no habitats or species listed as endangered were harmed by the plantings, the agency’s actions still are “tainted” because it failed to comply with a basic procedural requirement, Seabright said. The four companies issued the permits were ProdiGene, Monsanto, Hawaii Agriculture Research Center and Garst Seed. All of the companies’ plants used to make pharmaceutical crops already have been harvested and the companies have stopped planting the crops under the permits. In his order, Seabright said the service skipped the mandatory step under the Endangered Species Act of gathering information about local listed species and critical habitats. The National Environmental Policy Act also requires federal agencies to evaluate the impact of their actions on the environment. Source: Associated Press

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October 13, 2019, 6:40 pm PDT

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