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PEER sues White House for withholding documents from Monsanto-linked lobbyist regarding protection of GE crops in wildlife refuges

Friday, March 02, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: White House, Monsanto, lobbyists

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(NaturalNews) The non-profit advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) has filed a lawsuit against the Obama White House for refusing to comply with Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests that would potentially unearth the administration's direct ties to Monsanto and the biotechnology industry. The so-called administration of transparency is refusing to disclose portions of an email between a top White House policy analyst and a biotechnology lobbying group that appear to expose the administration's role in promoting genetically-modified (GM) crops in national wildlife refuges.

The Biotechnology Industry Association (BIO), a lobbying group which represents Monsanto and other key purveyors of GM crops, has for years been in close contact with the Obama White House over the issue of GM crop plantings in national wildlife refuges. Both BIO and the White House appear to be working in tandem on strategies to ensure that GM crops remain in wildlife refuges, an agricultural disaster that PEER has been trying for quite some time to bring to an end.

PEER has been largely successful in restricting GM plantings in wildlife refuges through repeated lawsuits, including one early last year that put an end to GM plantings in 12 wildlife refuges across the Northeast (http://www.naturalnews.com/031030_GMOs_lawsuit.html). But based on information that has been extracted via FOIA requests, the White House appears to be directly undercutting these measures by assisting BIO in protecting GM crops in other wildlife refuges from legal challenges.

And of particular concern is a January email between Peter Schmeissner, senior science policy analyst and member of the White House's biotechnology working group, and BIO, in which specific details about the biotechnology industry's lobbying strategies are laid out. The White House has deliberately censored certain sections of the email that is says contain biotechnology industry secrets, a fact that represents undeniable evidence that the Obama White House and the biotechnology industry are a close partnership.

"We suspect the reason an industry lobbyist so cavalierly shared strategy is that the White House is part of that strategy," said PEER staff counsel Kathryn Douglas about the situation. "The White House's legal posture is as credible as claiming Coca Cola's secret formula was 'inadvertently' left in a duffel bag at the bus station."

None of this is surprising since the Obama White House is filled with pro-GM players like Michael Taylor, a former Monsanto lobbyist who was appointed by Obama to be deputy commissioner for food at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). And U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) chief Tom Vilsack, another Obama appointee, was also responsible for pushing through the approval of GM alfalfa early last year (http://www.naturalnews.com/031196_GE_alfalfa_GMOs.html).

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