For Immediate Release
Kenneth Kristl [Widener Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic] (302) 477-2053;
Nicholas DiPasquale [Delaware Audubon] (302) 423-4140;
Kevin Golden [Center for Food Safety] (415) 826-2770 ext. 303;
Luke Eshleman [PEER] (202) 265-7337;
Lawsuit Ends Genetically Engineered Crops on Wildlife Refuge
Ruling on Delaware's Prime Hook May Affect Farming on Scores of Other Refuges
Service to stop planting genetically engineered (GE) crops on its Prime Hook
National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. While the ruling is limited to Prime
Hook, the lawsuit may serve as a model for similar litigation at more than
80 other national wildlife refuges now growing GE crops across the country.
Filed in April 2006 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, the federal suit charged
that the Fish & Wildlife Service had illegally entered into Cooperative
Farming Agreements with private parties, allowing hundreds of acres to be plowed
over without required environmental review and contrary to the Service's
own policy prohibiting GE crops.
"It is unfortunate that we had to file suit against the Service to get
it to comply with its own policies," commented Nicholas DiPasquale, Conservation
Chair for Delaware Audubon. "It is clear that this Refuge Manager had
abdicated control over farming operations at Prime Hook just as it is also
clear that farming practices have been extremely destructive to the forested
uplands at the refuge."
The groups filed suit after discovering that a top Bush administration political
appointee overruled the wildlife refuge manager in allowing the gene altered
crops. Three months after the groups filed suit in the U.S. District Court
for Delaware, the Fish & Wildlife Service loosened its policies to facilitate
greater use of GM crops on all refuges.
"These farming programs chew up the habitat that is supposed to provide
refuge for wildlife," stated Grady Hocutt, a former long-time refuge
manager who directs the PEER refuge program. "Genetically modified crops
serve no legitimate refuge purpose and have no business being grown there."
Farming within wildlife refuges often interferes with the protection of the
wildlife and the native grasses that the national refuge system is designed
to protect. Scientists also warn the use of genetically engineered crops can
lead to increased pesticide use on refuges and can have additional negative
effects on birds, aquatic animals, and other wildlife. In this case, Federal
District Court Chief Judge Gregory Sleet concluded that "it is undisputed
that farming with genetically modified crops at Prime Hook poses significant
"The U.S. Fish and Wildlife should not be planting genetically engineered
crops on National Wildlife Refuges," said Kevin Golden, Staff Attorney
for the Center for Food Safety. "Prime Hook is the tip of the iceberg
of a nation-wide problem which needs to be addressed at refuges around the
The court ruling blocks future agricultural operations on Prime Hook until
compatibility determinations required by the National Wildlife Refuge System
Administration Act and environmental assessments required by the National Environmental
Policy Act have been completed.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER's environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.