Originally created 10/07/01

Federal court halts Argentine citrus imports



FRESNO, Calif. -- Argentine citrus imports have been halted after a judge found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture did faulty research when it allowed the shipments.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert E. Coyle ruled Sept. 27 that the agriculture department's analysis led the agency to disregard the economic impact on small businesses.

The USDA cleared the way last summer for Argentine imports of lemons, grapefruit and oranges after years of studies, hearings and debate.

Citrus growers argued that the imports threatened the nation's $3 billion-a-year citrus crops. They also claimed the USDA's scientific research was not extensive enough to eliminate the risk of several species of fruit flies and scourges such as sweet orange scab, citrus black spot or citrus canker.

A canker infestation devastated Florida's citrus industry in the early 1980s, resulting in a two-decade effort to eradicate the disease that causes fruit to drop prematurely and ultimately can kill the tree.

"Decisions on trade in fresh produce that can carry pests and diseases from one country to another must be based on impeccable science," said Joel Nelsen, president of California Citrus Mutual, which represents growers.

The judge found that the USDA had provided insufficient data, that its research could not be replicated and that there were errors in its assessment of risks to growers. He ordered the USDA to address the problems he outlined.

The USDA was evaluating the ruling and had not decided how it would proceed, said spokeswoman Kimberley Smith.

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On the Net:

The USDA regulations: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/oa/citrus/

California Citrus Mutual: http://www.cacitrusmutual.com

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FLORENCE, Ala. -- Northwestern Alabama cotton farmers are cheering news that the Environmental Protection Agency has extended the use of a genetically altered cotton until at least 2006.

The cotton, commonly known as Bt cotton, has a bacterium gene inserted into it that produces a toxin deadly to some worms that damage cotton buds and bolls.

The registration for the enhanced cotton, developed by Monsanto Co. and marketed as Bollgard, was to expire Monday. Monsanto is now called Solutia.

The EPA's decision Monday extends use of the cotton for five years.

"We are delighted EPA has extended the registration for the Bt technology," said Hollis Isbell, a Colbert County cotton farmer. "Growing Bt cotton has a tremendous amount of advantages for the farmer. It also has advantages for the environment."

By growing cotton with its own insecticide, farmers use less chemical pesticides in their fields, said Isbell, chairman of the American Cotton Producers of the National Cotton Council.

Some environmental groups have asked regulators to reduce the amount of Bt cotton grown in the United States, fearing insects will develop a resistance to the gene.