Eco-Groups Challenge Obama Administration Over GMO Farming i

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Eco-Groups Challenge Obama Administration Over GMO Farming i

Postby admin » Sat Jan 30, 2016 8:54 pm

Eco-Groups Challenge Obama Administration Over GMO Farming in National Wildlife Refuges
By Mike Ludwig
Truthout
30 August 2013
Copyright, Truthout.

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Environmental advocates are once again suing the Obama administration to stop the farming of genetically engineered crops in national wildlife refuges, this time in five refuges in four Midwestern states.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in federal court, the environmental groups charge that the US Fish and Wildlife Service unlawfully entered into farming contracts to grow genetically engineered crops at national wildlife refuges in Missouri, Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois without completing an environmental impact review required by federal law.

The Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed farming on national wildlife refuges for decades, and environmentalists claim agriculture has harmful impacts on wildlife, biodiversity and native grasses in the refuges. In recent years, farmers have switched to genetically engineered crops - also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs - that are altered to produce or be resistant to pesticides.

Environmentalists are specifically concerned about Monsanto-brand GMOs that are engineered to tolerate the company's Roundup herbicide, which can be sprayed over entire fields to kill weeds while sparing the GMO crops. Widespread use of Roundup has been linked to outbreaks of herbicide-resistant weeds and increased pesticide use. Environmentalists also fear the herbicide could pollute waterways and harm ecosystems in the wildlife refuges.

This is the fifth lawsuit challenging GMOs in national wildlife refuges. In the recent years, lawsuits filed by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and the Center for Food Safety on similar grounds have stopped the US Fish and Wildlife Service from farming GMOs at refuges in 12 Northeastern states and at 25 refuges in eight Southeastern states.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is working on an environmental impact assessment of farming genetically engineered crops at refuges in the Southeast so it can re-establish its farming programs in the region. The federal agency says it uses farming as a "wildlife management tool" that helps meet conservation objectives for waterfowl and other species.

In the past, PEER has alleged that support for farming on wildlife refuges goes all the way up to the White House as the Obama administration struggles to boost GMO exports while European consumers and their governments grow increasingly leery of importing American transgenic food. In 2011, a PEER investigation revealed that the White House had formed special biotech agriculture working group made up of top-level officials from every federal agency involved in agricultural trade and beyond. Members of the working group were asked to weigh in on the environmental assessments of GMO farming on national wildlife refuges.

Internal emails show that a lobbyist with the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), a lobby group heavily funded by Monsanto and other GMO purveyors, emailed a senior White House science policy analyst about the legal challenges to GMO farming on wildlife refuges.

PEER claimed the communication was evidence of "collusion" between the White House and the biotech industry as part of an effort to boost the image of GMO farming worldwide, but the White House has withheld portions of the email, arguing that it contains proprietary business information.

In 2011, a Truthout investigation revealed that BIO and other industry groups had put mounting pressure on the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to speed up the regulatory approval of new GMO crops. BIO warned the USDA that preparing rigorous environmental impact reviews of each crop would slow the approval process and threaten America's dominance in international agriculture markets.
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Re: Eco-Groups Challenge Obama Administration Over GMO Farmi

Postby admin » Sat Jan 30, 2016 10:30 pm

GMO Crop Planting In National Wildlife Refuges Rejected By U.S. Judge
by FREDERIC J. FROMMER
Associated Press
10/23/2012

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WASHINGTON (AP) — A U.S. judge sided on Tuesday with environmental groups that challenged the planting of genetically-modified crops on National Wildlife Refuges in the South.

U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg rejected the federal government's argument that the environmental groups' lawsuit was moot because the Fish and Wildlife Service had already agreed to stop the practice after this year.

"Plaintiffs allege harms that are currently occurring and will continue throughout 2012," wrote Boasberg, an appointee of President Barack Obama. "Waiting for 2013 is not good enough." He set a hearing for Nov. 5 to determine appropriate relief, but also encouraged both sides to meet to see if they could agree on at least some remedies.

In their lawsuit last year, the Center for Food Safety and two other groups argued that the Fish and Wildlife Service violated environmental laws in allowing genetically modified crops in the agency's Southeast Region, which encompasses 10 states. The groups claimed the practice has harmful environmental impacts. The most common genetically-modified crops planted were corn and soybeans resistant to the herbicide Roundup.

The government responded in a filing that the practice will not be allowed after the end of the 2012 growing season until the region completes an appropriate environmental analysis.

The environmental groups pursued two similar lawsuits in the state of Delaware, which blocked planting of genetically-engineered crops in two wildlife refuges and, ultimately, resulted in the Fish and Wildlife Service's ending the practice in its 12-state Northeast Region.

In their lawsuit, Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility said that there are several ongoing environmental effects of using the genetically-modified crops, including harm to beneficial insects, an increase in herbicide-resistant weeds, altered soil ecology and genetic contamination of natural plants.

Boasberg said it was premature to determine what relief would be appropriate now, but he said that groups have identified several steps that could help mitigate any effects from the genetically-engineered crops. They include requirements that no genetically modified crops are left in the field after harvest, to prevent transgenic contamination; that Fish & Wildlife survey and disclose the locations of genetically modified crops in wildlife refuges; and that spraying of pesticides on all genetically-modified crops be banned.

"Ultimately, we think genetically-engineered crops should not be grown on National Wildlife Refuges, which are safe havens for wildlife, for people, and to protect biological diversity," said Paige Tomaselli, a staff attorney for the Center for Food Safety.

The Department of Interior, which houses the Fish and Wildlife Service, said it does not comment on pending litigation.
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