Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service settled a lawsuit with conservation and food safety groups when it agreed to stop planting genetically engineered (GE) crops on all its refuges within a dozen Northeastern states.
The lawsuit 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).
As a result of the settlement, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service promised to revoke any authorization for further GE agriculture at Bombay Hook and 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.
“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.”
Despite this regional victory, the government would not agree to stop illegal cultivation of GE crop in refuges nationally, so new litigation is being prepared for other regions.
There are approximately 75 national wildlife refuges now growing GE crops across the country.
Image: Saltmarsh Trail at Bombay Hook NWR
Credit: Flickr - US Fish and Wildlife Service