On December 22 Judge Gerhard A. Gesell of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed a suit filed by environmental activist Jeremy Rifkin that sought to overturn the June 26 announcement on the grounds that it bypassed established federal rulemaking procedures.
The same day, Gesell dismissed as premature a separate suit brought by Rifkin to force the Environmental Protection Agency to require that agencies licensed to release genetically engineered materials into the environment be financially able to undo any damage done. Gesell ruled that Rifkin had shown no specific injury caused by the rules and that Rifkin had not established his legal standing to sue in the case.
Despite the suit's allegations, federal agencies had not adopted the rules, Judge Gesell said. "While the [June 26] document is not a model of clarity, its treatment by the agencies involved conclusively establishes it is merely a first effort to aid in formulation of agency policy," Gesell wrote.
According to David T. Kingsbury, assistant director of the National Science Foundation and coordinator of the joint federal effort, "the lawsuit has had absolutely no effect on the rulemaking process." The six departments with oversight of one or more aspects of biotechnology—EPA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)—are analyzing public comments on the regulations as part of their usual rulemaking process, he said.
Rifkin was undaunted by the twin decisions. "We won the first one," he said. "The agencies have all backed off the June 26 rules and are developing their own regulations," he said.