The Obama White House’s work to push regulatory approvals behind the scenes for genetically-engineered (GE) crops should be publicly known, according to legal briefs filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER).
For the past five months, PEER has been litigating to force release of documents detailing the activities of a White House-led “Agriculture Biotech Working Group” consisting of officials from ten agencies dedicated to promoting GE agriculture.
The Working Group is chaired by the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy (OSTP) which has only released tiny fragments of materials to PEER in its Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, PEER charged. OSTP still refuses to divulge lists of agenda items, schedules and other indications of its work on GE issues.
While not a member of the Working Group, the Biotechnology Industry Association (BIO), whose most prominent member is Monsanto, the world’s leading GE seed company, appears to be intimately aware of the White House actions, as indicated by snippets of correspondence surrendered by OSTP, PEER charged.
Indeed, PEER alleges the White House is withholding a portion of an email it received from a BIO lobbyist on the grounds that it would reveal “trade secrets” and confidential business information.
PEER became involved because the White House Working Group was pressuring the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to plant GE crops on scores of national wildlife refuges, as part of an effort to rebut foreign government concerns about planting these crops. PEER and other groups are now suing to block these plantings.