Environmental groups filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] on Thursday against the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [official website]. The lawsuit challenged the FDA’s authority to approve genetically modified animals for use as food. In November the FDA approved [WSJ report] the production and commercial sale of genetically modified salmon. The lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California [official website], seeks to overturn this decision and block the use of a range of new biotech animals under development that have been modified to grow faster. The groups filing the suit are led by the Food & Water Watch, Center for Food Safety and the Center for Biological Diversity [advocacy websites]. The groups are concerned [WSJ report] that the salmon could threaten wild salmon populations if they were to escape as well as potential health risks in their consumption. The FDA has jurisdiction over animals genetically engineered for other purposes than consumption.
In February 2014 US President Barack Obama signed into law [press release] a $956 billion farm bill [text, PDF] providing expanded crop insurance and other benefits for the agricultural sector and also requiring changes in food labeling. The recent prevalence of GMO crops has been a point of contention in courts around the world. In May 2014 Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed a bill [JURIST report] requiring the labeling of food containing GMOs. In May 2013 the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously [JURIST report] in Bowman v. Monsanto [SCOTUSblog backgrounder] that a farmer who buys patented seeds may not reproduce them through planting and harvesting without the patent holder’s permission, even though the seeds are altered to self-replicate. In March 2011 the European Court of Justice declared [JURIST report] that a ban on cultivating GMO crops is illegal after France attempted to prohibit the production of a strain of genetically modified maize developed by Monsanto in 2008. In December 2010 a US federal judge ordered the destruction [JURIST report] of a crop of genetically engineered sugar beets due to its potential harmful effect on surrounding flora.