Government Planting GM Crops In National Wildlife Refuges
One of the biggest concerns of genetically modified plants is the ability for these plants to infect other plants through cross-pollination, thereby eliminating surrounding native species forever. Another is the recent development of weeds resistant to glyphosate, the main ingredient used in Round Up, spurring the growth of uncontrollable weed development in farms across the country. With these concerns alone, why would the U.S. government allow the planting of genetically modified plants in wildlife refuges?
For years, the Fish & Wildlife Service has allowed farming in wildlife refuges for the purpose of habitat restoration. The agency claims farming the lands helps restore native grasslands and provides food for wildlife. Although in the past the policy has been not to allow GE crops unless determined essential, it appears the government has deemed- without public hearing or consent- that this type of planting is essential.
In an article written by Mike Ludwig for the watchdog organization, Truthout, this week, it’s reported that Deborah Rocque, a top official with the wildlife refuge system, told Truthout that GE crops restore habitats in ways that conventional crops cannot. She says that crops that are genetically modified to tolerate herbicide (like Monsanto’s Roundup) provide beneficial ground cover and the herbicides can be sprayed across entire fields, killing only unwanted weeds, while sparing the crops.
And the wildlife? What harm might come to the wildlife through this incessant spraying of toxic pesticides? That appears to be of little concern to U.S. officials. Perhaps because of the cozy relationship the politicos seem to have lately with those in the biotech industry.
According to documents published by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), another watchdog group, the Obama administration has entered into a joint venture with the agriculutral biotechnology industry with its creation of the White House Biotechnology Agricultural Working Group. The purpose of the venture, according to PEER, is to promote exportation of crops to those countries already leery of the U.S. supply of transgenic food.
Early this year, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife agreed to stop planting GE crops in its northeastern refuges, after a joint lawsuit filed by PEER, the Center for Food Safety, and the Delaware Audubon Society. The Administration, however, was unwilling to extend this ban beyond the northeast region, so that still leaves 31 refuges across 8 midwestern states, 25 refuges in 12 southeastern states, and 17 refuges in the mountain prarie region.
PEER plans to continue its fight, saying, “Increasingly the only seed available to U.S. farmers, especially for corn and soybeans, is GE. Ironically, it is the ubiquity of GE agriculture that FWS offers as the main reason it must allow these crops on refuges.”