Photo via EcoSalon
In what could be a huge blow to Monsanto and a boon for small farms, a federal judge issued a ruling in Missouri stating that the US Fish and Wildlife shouldn't have allowed genetically modified crops on a national wildlife refuge. As a result of the ruling, 37 farming contracts—most of which were being used for GMO soybean and corn crops—have been canceled. Will this set a national precedent, paving the way for tougher rules and closer scrutiny of the environmental impact GMOs?It could.
A New Perspective on GMOs
An important thing to consider here is the language of the judge's opinion. Let's take a look, courtesy of the St. Louis Today. The judge wrote that:
"the Fish and Wildlife agency erred by failing to conduct environmental studies to determine whether farming with genetically modified crops at the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware was compatible with conservation and habitat preservation."
More specifically, (and alarmingly) he noted that the F&W; agency
"Does not contest that their own biologists determined that these activities posed significant environmental risks to Prime Hook, including biological contamination, increased weed resistance and damage to soils."
Which means that the agency's own biologists, while under the Bush administration, determined that GMOs could be harmful to the natural habitat. But it let them plant and farm the GMO crops anyways. Nice.
The language of the judge's ruling cracks the door for a larger investigation to determine the scale of environmental threats posed by GMOs—and it signals that such thorough investigations should take place before GMO crops are introduced or cultivated anywhere. And it gives opponents of genetically modified crops some much-needed ammunition. It now offers groups like the Audubon society a precedent to appeal to when rallying against GMOs planted on national refuges across the country.
GMOs in Trouble?
Who stands to suffer from the ruling the most? That'd be Monsanto, of course--the company responsible for selling and licensing the vast majority of GMOs. Making this story even juicier is the fact that Monsanto is based right in Creve Coeur, Missouri—the state where the ruling was made, and the one most likely to see its most immediate effects. Any future cultivation is prohibited in Prime Hook Nat. Refuge until further environmental assessment takes place—meaning Monsanto is on hold. And those 37 canceled farming contracts and thousands of acres of halted crops are just the beginning.
Environmental groups already have plans in the works to start targeting other refuges that have allowed GMO crops on their soil, not only in Missouri, but in regions with refuges that allow GMO farming across the country.