The Obama administration has approved the strategic planting of genetically engineered seeds on more than 50 National Wildlife Refuges in the Midwest as part of region-wide habitat restoration efforts.
The multi-platform plan is designed to restore and manage habitat, supplement food for wildlife and attract wildlife for visitor viewing and photography. Slated to last no more than five years, the main crops would include GMO corn and soy. After the five-year period, farming could continue as a management tool, but it would be limited to non-GMO crops, according to the official government release.
Planting row crops in refuge lands has been used as a tool for many years by The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in restoring native habitats, controlling invasive weeds and providing food for both migratory birds and resident wildlife. Nearly three dozen of the area wildlife and wetland districts already use row crop farming to manage and improve habitats. The widespread use of GMOs in the U.S. has led to the decision to pursue planting these crops in the wildlife areas.
Anti-GMO groups condemn this decision, citing the risks connected to GM seeds and the already delicate nature of America's protected wildlife refuges and park lands being affected by climate change, loss of species and pollutants that are contaminating water and soil. In January, 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 filed a lawsuit in a similar case. The plaintiffs alleged that the Fish & Wildlife Service had illegally entered into Cooperative Farming Agreements with private parties, allowing the planting of GE crops at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service settled the case promising to revoke any further access to GMOs in the area.
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Photo: Peter Blanchard