Feds Yank GE Crops From All Northeast Refuges

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kirsten Stade [PEER] (202) 265-7337,
Paige Tomasilli [Center for Food Safety] (415) 826-2770,

Mark Martell [Delaware Audubon Society] (302) 292-3970;

Kenneth Kristl [Widener Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic] (302) 477-2053

Feds Yank GE Crops From All Northeast Refuges

Settlement of Bombay Hook Suit Makes Southeast Refuges Next Legal Target

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has agreed to stop planting
genetically engineered (GE) crops on all its refuges within a dozen
Northeastern states, according to a settlement agreement in a lawsuit
brought by conservation and food safety groups. Because the federal
government would not agree to end illegal GE agriculture in refuges
nationally, new litigation is being prepared in other regions where as
many as 75 other national wildlife refuges now growing GE crops are
vulnerable to similar suits.

The lawsuit in the U.S. District
Court for Delaware, filed 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, 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).

In settling the
suit, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service promised to revoke any
authorization for further GE agriculture at Bombay Hook and the 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.

"For Delawareans,
this is a victory for the protection of vital public resources in our
state," said Mark Martell, President of the Delaware Audubon Society.
"Our aim was to end illegal and destructive agriculture on the Delaware
refuges but we are delighted to have this victory extended to other
refuges along the Great Eastern Flyway."

In March 2009, the
same groups won a similar lawsuit against GE plantings on Delaware's
Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. In August 2009, several
environmental groups led by the Center for Food Safety and PEER wrote to
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to alert him to the implications of the
Prime Hook ruling, asking him to "issue a moratorium on all GE crop
cultivation in National Wildlife Refuges". But Secretary Salazar never
responded to the letter and his agency, which oversees the U.S. Fish
& Wildlife Service, was unwilling to extend the Bombay Hook
settlement beyond the Northeast region.

"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."

PEER
and the Center for Food Safety are now shifting their litigation focus
to the Southeast, where many refuges still grow GE crops. National
wildlife refuges have allowed farming for decades but in recent years
refuge farming has been converted to GE crops because that is only seed
farmers can obtain. Today, the vast majority of crops grown on refuges
are genetically engineered. Scientists warn that GE crops can lead to
increased pesticide use on refuges and can harm birds, aquatic animals,
and other wildlife.

"GE crops have no place in National
Wildlife Refuges," said Paige Tomaselli, Staff Attorney with the Center
for Food Safety. "These pesticide-resistant crops pose significant
risks to the very wildlife those refuges serve to protect, including
massively increasing pesticide use and creating of pesticide-resistant
superweeds. This Northeast region-wide ban is an important step in the
right direction, but the Fish & Wildlife Service must stop planting
these crops in other regions as well."

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See the Bombay Hook Settlement

Look at the Bombay Hook suit

Read the unanswered letter to Sec. Salazar

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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.

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