Lawsuit claims USFWS violated environmental laws by approving use of GE crops
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Environmental and watchdog groups have joined forces in a legal battle to end the cultivation of genetically engineered crops on fifty-four national wildlife refuges across the Midwest. The lawsuit — filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia by the Center for Food Safety, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, and Beyond Pesticides is the latest in a series of successful actions by public interest groups to stop planting of GE crops on wildlife refuges.
The groups are claiming that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service violated federal environmental laws by entered into cooperative farming agreements and approved planting of GE crops in eight Midwestern states, without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act and in violation of the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act and FWS’s own policy.
This is the fourth lawsuit to challenge the planting of GE crops on wildlife refuges. Previously, the groups successfully challenged approval of GE plantings on two wildlife refuges in Delaware, which forced the Fish and Wildlife Service to end GE planting in the entire 12-state Northeastern Region. Earlier this year, the groups filed suit to block planting GE crops on twenty-five refuges across eight states in the Southeast.
“National Wildlife Refuges are sanctuaries for migratory birds, native grasses, and endangered species,” said Paige Tomaselli, a staff attorney with the Center for Food Safety. “Allowing pesticide-promoting, GE crops degrades these vital ecosystems and is antithetical to the basic purpose of our refuge system. Worse still is approval without meaningful review of these crops’ impacts.”
The Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed farming on refuge lands for decades despite potential impacts to wildlife, native grasses, and biodiversity. In recent years, refuges have converted to GE crops because the agency claims GE seed is the only seed farmers can obtain. These GE crops are mostly engineered for a single purpose: to be resistant to herbicides, principally Monsanto’s ubiquitous Roundup.
The use of the GE plants leads to more frequent applications and increased amounts of toxic herbicides. This over-reliance on herbicides has also fostered an epidemic of “superweeds” in the past decade as weeds have mutated to resist Roundup, similar to antibiotic resistance. Farming of GE crops has also led to the uncontrolled spread of the transgenic DNA to conventional, organic crops, and wild relatives.
“We are disappointed that the Fish and Wildlife Service refuses to follow its own biological integrity policy forbidding GE crops unless their use is essential to accomplishing a refuge purpose, which, of course, it never is,” said PEER Counsel Kathryn Douglas, who has obtained documents under Freedom of Information Act litigation documenting the Obama “White House Agricultural Biotechnology Working Group” partnership with industry to promote planting GE crops on National Wildlife Refuges. “Wildlife refuges should be the last place for playing out corporate-political agendas.”
If successful, the lawsuit will halt the cultivation of GE crops in the Midwest Region until and unless a new approval is made based on a rigorous review of all potential impacts and consistency with the refuge’s purposes. Unless the practice changes, PEER and CFS have pledged to continue challenging the legality of GE crop cultivation on refuges across the country.
Filed under: agriculture, biodiversity, Environment, Summit County news Tagged: | biodiversity, Center for Food Safety, GE crops, Genetic engineering, National Wildlife Refuge, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, United States Fish and Wildlife Service