University of Illinois

No. 23/October 10, 1997

U.S. EPA Presented with Petition Regarding Use of B.t. Hybrids

On September 16, 1997, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was presented with a petition to withdraw approval of transgenic hybrids that carry the "genetic code from a soil bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis and abstain from any new registration of such plants." The petition was filed by a coalition of environmental, farming, and scientific organizations such as the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements; Sierra Club; Centre for International Technology Assessment in Washington, D.C.; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy in Minneapolis, MN; and National Coalition for Misuse of Pesticides. In all, 31 groups filed a formal legal petition. The petitioners have threatened to take the EPA to the U.S. Federal District Court if the agency fails to react within 90 days.

Paramount among the coalition's concerns are (1) potential development of resistance to B.t. toxins rendering rescue treatments of B.t. sprays by organic growers useless, (2) potential lethal effects of B.t. toxins to nontarget organisms (predators/parasitoids), and (3) potential transfer of B.t. genes to wild relatives of transgenic crops via cross pollination (especially in countries of specific crop origin).

The EPA has less than 3 months to respond to this petition. Those of us involved in agriculture and pest management remain anxious to see how the U.S. EPA will respond to this challenge.
Mike Gray and Kevin Steffey, Extension Entomology, (217)333-6652