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Center for Food Safety Claims USDA Unlawfully Withholding Records

Center for Food Safety Claims USDA Unlawfully Withholding Records

<p>APHIS has failed to provide a timely response to at least 29 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests or appeals</p>

The Center for Food Safety last week sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an effort to force the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to turn over information related to genetically engineered (GE) crops.

APHIS has failed to provide a timely response to at least 29 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests or appeals, and of those inquiries, the agency hasn’t even provided a final response to 10 requests and two appeals, according to the nonprofit Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C.

“APHIS has a track record of irresponsible and inadequate regulation of GE crops. In the absence of thorough government oversight, public access to information about these crops becomes all the more critical," said Cristina Stella, staff attorney for the Center for Food Safety, in a statement. “This lawsuit is necessary to stop APHIS from continuing to ignore its duty to provide the public with information that affects farmers, communities, and the environment."

The Center for Food Safety alleged the agency has a long history of delaying requests for information. For instance, the public interest group said APHIS delayed for more than four years a response to a FOIA request for information related to field trials of GE “Roundup Ready" creeping bentgrass. APHIS also has failed to provide a timely response to three requests for information regarding GE wheat field trials since 2002, according to the Center for Food Safety.

Ed Curlett, a spokesman for APHIS, said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.

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