Federal Agency Faces Lawsuit Over GMO Crops in U.S. Wildlife Refuges

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Environmental and food safety groups have filed a federal lawsuit against the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, demanding the end of genetically modified crops on wildlife refuges in the U.S. Midwest. The plaintiffs, which include Beyond Pesticides, the Center for Food Safety, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, say the agency neglected to complete environmental reviews required under the National Environmental Policy Act and is in violation of the National Wildlife Refuge System Administration Act.

"Allowing pesticide-promoting, GE (genetically engineered) 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," Center for Food Safety attorney Paige Tomaselli said in a statement. "National Wildlife Refuges are sanctuaries for migratory birds, native grasses, and endangered species."

Most of the crops at issue are Monsanto's "Roundup Ready" crops, which have been genetically engineered to tolerate herbicides, but which the plaintiffs in the suit (as well as critics around the world) say dramatically increase the use of herbicides, mainly glyphosate.

More on glyphosate from Reuters:

The primary herbicide used on U.S. farmland is glyphosate - the main ingredient in Roundup - and heavy use of glyphosate has been degrading the soil ecosystem and polluting wetlands, streams, lakes, and rivers, some studies have shown, the plaintiffs said.

Herbicides also harm habitats of wildlife and in many instances, directly harm plants and wildlife, including listed endangered species, according to the lawsuit.

The Center for Food Safety explained more about the lawsuit:

This federal lawsuit charges that the Fish & Wildlife Service unlawfully entered into cooperative farming agreements and approved planting of GE crops in eight Midwestern states (IL, IA, IN, MI, MN, MO, OH, and WI)."

This is the fourth lawsuit filed by CFS and PEER challenging FWS’s practice of permitting GE crops on wildlife refuges. Previously, the two groups successfully challenged approval of GE plantings on two wildlife refuges in Delaware, which forced FWS to end GE planting in the entire 12-state Northeastern Region. Earlier this year, CFS, PEER and Beyond Pesticides filed suit to block planting GE crops on twenty-five refuges across eight states in the Southeast.

Tags: Food Safety | Genetically Modified Food | GMO