Not in my wildlife refuge, pal.
Environmental groups are getting tough with federal officials in a lawsuit that alleges some of America’s beloved natural spaces are being damaged because lands are leased to farmers who plant genetically modified plants and use heavy pesticides.
The coalition of green groups—which includes the Sierra Club, the Center for Food Safety, and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility—want the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials to halt any possible damage to the lands until environmental analyses are completed.
The suit alleges that under the National Environmental Protection Act and the Refuge Improvement act, the government is required to do those studies before entering into farming contracts.
Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell is named as the lead defendant in the 35-page filing. Jewell’s office did not respond to a request for response to the lawsuit or details of the federal program under which the farms exist.
“Allowing pesticide promoting, (genetically engineered) crops is antithetical to the basic purpose of our refuge system,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety.
Tuesday’s lawsuit affects five refuges in four states in the Midwest: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Missouri, and is the latest in a string of similar lawsuits. Those lawsuits have succeeded in other regions, but no broad federal policy is being enforced, so environmental groups are going after offenders piecemeal.
Sierra Club GMO expert Neil Carman says there is growing concern about genetic engineering among the club’s vast membership.
“This is completely different from the traditional breeding practices of the last 10,000 years because it’s a mutation technology,” Carman said.
Seeds are mutated so they can tolerate heavy pesticide and then “nuked” with chemicals that kill crop-killing pests, but also impact local water and the natural ecosystem for many farmland organisms, Carman said.
“We’re going to fight that all over the country,” he said.