Environmental groups are suing the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to halt open-air field tests of biopharmaceutical crops in Hawaii until officials assess the environmental and public health risks the plants may pose. Such legal action represents mounting activism in Hawaii, the world leader for agricultural biotechnology trials.

“We want these tests stopped until proper analyses of their impacts are done,” Paul Achitoff, managing attorney of law firm Earthjustice's Hawaii office, which is representing a coalition of environmental groups, told The Scientist.

More than 4000 field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops have been conducted in Hawaii, including more than two dozen tests of biopharmaceutical crops. The state's balmy weather allows researchers to grow crops in open-air field tests year-round. Biotech giants, such as Dow, Monsanto, and DuPont, and academic institutions conduct experiments there on plants including corn, tobacco, and soy.

“The papaya industry in Hawaii is...

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