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Court Okays Genetically Modified Crops On Wildlife Refuges

A judge ruled the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's Midwest region can use genetically modified crops to restore wildlife habitats.

muscatatuck wildlife refuge

Photo: Geoff McKim (Flickr)

Genetically modified crops are being used on the Muscatatuck Wildlife Refuge.

A recent court ruling has reaffirmed the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s practice of planting genetically modified crops in Midwest wildlife refuges. Environmental groups argue the decision will have negative impacts on the sensitive habitats.

The Fish & Wildlife Service uses genetically modified crops as extra food sources for wildlife and to maintain and restore land that it says could otherwise be over-run by invasive species. The Midwest region conducted an environmental assessment last year that looked at the impacts the crops were having.

After the assessment was complete, three environmental organizations sued, saying it was not comprehensive and did not follow national standards. A judge threw out that claim.

U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Assistant Refuge Supervisor for the Midwest Rick Speer says his region has been careful to only use genetically modified crops when absolutely necessary—something required by federal law.

“We came up with another alternative indicating that we would only use genetically modified crop, only genetically modified glyphosate tolerant corn and soybeans for the use of habitat restoration,” he says.

In other words, the Fish & Wildlife Service would no longer use genetically modified crops to supplement wildlife food and would limit the use of any of the crops to five years or less.

Paige Tomaselli, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety, says that is not good enough.

“Using the same pesticide over and over again, which these crops promote, creates herbicide resistant weeds such as round up resistant weeds, which are a massive problem in the Midwest,” she says.

Tomaselli argues the Fish and Wildlife Service did not consider enough alternatives to genetically modified crops, which are being used refuges around the Midwest, including Muscatatuck National Wildlife Refuge in Indiana.

Gretchen Frazee

Gretchen Frazee is a reporter/producer for WFIU and WTIU news. Prior to her current role, Frazee worked as the associate online content coordinator for WFIU/WTIU. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia where she studied multimedia journalism and anthropology. You can follow her on Twitter @gretchenfrazee.

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