Plans Issued to Green-Light Genetically Engineered Agriculture on Scores of Refuges
February 14, 2011 – Washington, DC — The Obama administration has endorsed genetically engineered agriculture on more than 50 National Wildlife Refuges, with more GE-refuge approvals in the works, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The new plan is designed to insulate refuges from environmental court challenges in the wake of a lawsuit recently won by PEER and other groups which halted GE agriculture in all Northeastern refuges.
The national blitz of official filings is intended to remove a perceived barrier to the export of American GE crops – U.S. restrictions on growing GE crops on National Wildlife Refuges. Under a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS operates the refuges) policy, GE crops are banned from refuges unless determined to be “essential” to refuge operations. Countries leery of importing U.S. bio-engineered food have cited the policy as one basis for their concern.
Rather than overturn this FWS “Biological Integrity” policy outright, the White House has embarked on a region-by-region approach to file environmental paperwork justifying GE agriculture on –
* 31 refuge units across 8 Midwestern states;
* 25 refuges units in 12 Southeastern states; and
* 17 refuges in the 8-state Mountain Prairie Region.
The proposal for the Midwestern Refuges would allow more than 20,000 acres to be cultivated with no limits on how many acres could be GE crops. The public comment deadline for that plan is today. In its comments, PEER argues that the GE operations risk harm to wildlife, refuge plants and soil, while contending that there is no refuge purpose for which GE crops are essential, as required by FWS policy.
“These plans are based on the curious notion that wildlife benefit from having the small slivers of habitat set aside for them covered by genetically engineered soybeans,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the Midwest refuges are already surrounded by row crops, most of which are now GE. “To boost U.S. exports, the Obama administration is forcing wildlife refuges into political prostitution.”
In 2010, PEER, the Center for Food Safety and Delaware Audubon brought successful litigation charging that GE agriculture on refuges in the Northeast violated the Refuge Improvement Act as incompatible with refuge purposes and lacked reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act. That suit was settled when FWS agreed to stop commercial agriculture operations on all refuges within the region. These latest filings are supposed to shield refuges in other regions from similar suits based on failing to meet procedural requirements of environmental statutes. Future challenges would have to show that these new eco-reviews are impermissibly defective – a higher legal hurdle.
“The Obama administration says that it is devoted to scientific integrity but these new reviews are scientific travesties,” added Ruch, pointing to new Interior Department (which includes FWS) rules requiring that scientific information in decision- making “must be robust, of the highest quality, and the result of the most rigorous scientific processes as can be achieved.” “The sole document assessing the environmental impacts of genetically engineered planting in 25 Southeastern refuges is only six pages long.”
Increasingly the only seed available to U.S. farmers, especially for corn and soybeans, is GE. Ironically, it is the ubiquity of GE agriculture that FWS offers as the main reason it must allow these crops on refuges.
Article from: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
Below is the article that describes the previous victory PEER had won against the tyranny of GE crops, which is now being circumvented by Obama. Thanks Obama you sure are wonderful!
FEDS YANK GE CROPS FROM ALL NORTHEAST REFUGES — Settlement of Bombay Hook Suit Makes Southeast Refuges Next Legal Target
January 10, 2011
Washington, DC — The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has agreed to stop planting genetically engineered (GE) crops on all its refuges within a dozen Northeastern states, according to a settlement agreement in a lawsuit brought by conservation and food safety groups. Because the federal government would not agree to end illegal GE agriculture in refuges nationally, new litigation is being prepared in other regions where as many as 75 other national wildlife refuges now growing GE crops are vulnerable to similar suits.
The lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for Delaware, filed by the Widener Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic on behalf of Delaware Audubon Society, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Food Safety, charged that the Fish & Wildlife Service had illegally entered into Cooperative Farming Agreements with private parties, allowing hundreds of acres on its Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware to be plowed over without the environmental review required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
In settling the suit, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service promised to revoke any authorization for further GE agriculture at Bombay Hook and the four other refuges with GE crops: the Rappahannock River Valley Refuge and the Eastern Shore of Virginia Refuge, Montezuma Refuge in New York and Blackwater Refuge of Maryland, unless and until an appropriate NEPA analysis is completed – a condition that has yet to be met for GE agriculture on a National Wildlife Refuge.
“For Delawareans, this is a victory for the protection of vital public resources in our state,” said Mark Martell, President of the Delaware Audubon Society. “Our aim was to end illegal and destructive agriculture on the Delaware refuges but we are delighted to have this victory extended to other refuges along the Great Eastern Flyway.”
In March 2009, the same groups won a similar lawsuit against GE plantings on Delaware’s Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. In August 2009, several environmental groups led by the Center for Food Safety and PEER wrote to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to alert him to the implications of the Prime Hook ruling, asking him to “issue a moratorium on all GE crop cultivation in National Wildlife Refuges”. But Secretary Salazar never responded to the letter and his agency, which oversees the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, was unwilling to extend the Bombay Hook settlement beyond the Northeast region.
“Planting genetically engineered crops on wildlife refuges is resource management malpractice,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that Fish & Wildlife Service policy explicitly forbids “genetically modified agricultural crops in refuge management unless [they] determine their use is essential to accomplishing refuge purpose(s).” “GE crops serve no legitimate refuge purpose, thus refuge officials must resort to outright fictions to claim these crops benefit wildlife.”
PEER and the Center for Food Safety are now shifting their litigation focus to the Southeast, where many refuges still grow GE crops. National wildlife refuges have allowed farming for decades but in recent years refuge farming has been converted to GE crops because that is only seed farmers can obtain. Today, the vast majority of crops grown on refuges are genetically engineered. Scientists warn that GE crops can lead to increased pesticide use on refuges and can harm birds, aquatic animals, and other wildlife.
“GE crops have no place in National Wildlife Refuges,” said Paige Tomaselli, Staff Attorney with the Center for Food Safety. “These pesticide-resistant crops pose significant risks to the very wildlife those refuges serve to protect, including massively increasing pesticide use and creating of pesticide-resistant superweeds. This Northeast region-wide ban is an important step in the right direction, but the Fish & Wildlife Service must stop planting these crops in other regions as well.”