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Environment: Feds to ban genetically engineered crops, neonicotinoid pesticides in wildlife refuges

Resident bald eagle in Summit County, Colorado guarding the nest.

Recent studies show that neonicotinoid pesticides can persist in the environment, so the decision to ban them from federal wildlife refuges is good news for bald eagles. bberwyn photo.

New directive ends some long-running legal squabbles

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Federal wildlife and land managers say they’ll end the use of genetically engineered crops and ban systemic neonicotonoid pesticides in the next 18 months. In a July 17 memo  chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System James Kurth wrote that it’s not essential for his agency to use the potentially harmful products to meet its wildlife management objectives. Read the FWS memorandum.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service thus becomes the first federal agency to restrict the use of GE crops and neonicotinoids in farming in the U.S.

Public land and health watchdog groups have been challenging the agency over the use GE crops since 2005, including five lawsuits, two legal petitions and multitudes of administrative challenges and appeals, resulting in numerous court rulings against the agency. In one case, a judge ordered the agency to eradicate genetically engineered plants from wildlife refuges in the Southeast. Continue reading

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Court to determine whether U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must mitigate impacts of genetically modified crops

Environmental groups hail latest opinion as victory in fight against GM crops on protected lands

Migrating waterfowl rely on stopovers at wildlife refuges, where the use of genetically modified feed crops has been controversial. Bob Berwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A Federal court this week set the stage for resolving a long-running conflict over the use of genetically engineered crops of 44,000 acres of land in the national wildlife refuge system administered by the Southeast Region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg said that, even though the region has already agreed to stop planting GM crops, there may be ongoing effects. The judge set a hearing date of Nov. 5 to determine an appropriate remedy and urged the parties to meet before then to try and reach at least partial agreement.

At issue is the fact that the USFWS started using GM crops without doing an in-depth environmental study Instead, the agency relied on environmental studies done by a U.S. Department of Agriculture agency, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, according to Tom MacKenzie, spokesman for the southeast region of the USFWS. Continue reading

Environment: Herbicide use increasing exponentially

Herbicide use spikes as weed resistance grows.

Transgenic crops and increasingly resistant weeds create new problems for growers and consumers

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The use of herbicides associated with the cultivation three key herbicide-tolerant crops of  has skyrocketed, increasing by 25 percent annually, according to a new study from Washington State University that analyzed trends in production of cotton, soybeans and corn.

The findings, described as counterintuitive by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook, are based on public data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agriculture Statistics Service.

The annual increase in the herbicides required to deal with tougher-to-control weeds on cropland planted to GE cultivars has grown from 1.5 million pounds in 1999 to about 90 million pounds in 2011. Continue reading

Watchdog and public health groups challenge the use of genetically engineered crops in National Wildlife Refuges

Environmental groups say the planting of genetically engineered crops puts the biological integrity of national wildlife refuges at risk. PHOTO COURTESY USFWS.

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. Continue reading

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