(Beyond Pesticides, March 19, 2015) A federal court ruled Monday against the use of neonicotinoid insecticides linked with destruction of bee colonies and other beneficial insects in national wildlife refuges in the Midwest region. The ruling caps a legal campaign to end the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops and other industrial agricultural practices on national wildlife refuges across the country.
The federal lawsuit was filed by Center for Food Safety (CFS), Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), Sierra Club, and Beyond Pesticides. The suit focused on farming contracts for five refuges in four Midwestern states (IL, IA, MN and MO) and sought to force the Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), which operates refuges, to stop these practices until it completes rigorous analyses of their environmental impacts. Beset by this litigation, this past July FWS decided that it will phase out the use of GE crops to feed wildlife and ban neonicotinoid insecticides from all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016. This new policy still allows for case-by-case exceptions.
In the March 16, 2015 ruling, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered:
“By no later than APRIL 15, 2015, Defendants shall file a Notice indicating the extent to which neonicotinoid pesticides are currently used on the five challenged refuges and where those pesticides are used. Assuming that these pesticides are currently used””or Defendants plan for them to be used””this claim is remanded to the agency to devise a plan to phase out their use as soon as practicable, but no later than January 1, 2016.” [Emphasis in original]
“The court found that neonicotinoid pesticides so upset the natural balance a refuge is supposed to safeguard that a thorough site-specific environmental assessment is required before these potent agents can be used,” stated PEER Senior Counsel Paula Dinerstein, noting that neonics are now widely used in U.S. agriculture and even in backyard gardens. “While we did not win on all counts, the court found that the Service’s mismanagement of refuges did not always sink to the level of illegality — a very low bar indeed.”
“The decision makes clear that FWS must analyze the specific impacts genetically engineered crops will have on each unique refuge environment before approving them,” said Paige Tomaselli, senior attorney for Center for Food Safety. “FWS can no longer get away with after-the-fact environmental risk analysis on our fragile wildlife refuges.”
This was the fifth lawsuit filed by CFS and PEER challenging GE crops on wildlife refuges. For nearly 10 years, Beyond Pesticides has joined the two groups to campaign against GE crops and pesticide use on refuges. In March 2009, CFS and PEER won a lawsuit, filed in 2006, halting GE plantings on Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware. In 2011, the groups forced a legal settlement ending GE planting on refuges throughout the 12-state Northeast Region. In 2012, a federal court formally halted the planting of GE crops on all National Wildlife Refuges in the Southeastern U.S. as well as ordered steps to mitigate environmental damage from their previous illegal cultivation. The groups have also petitioned FWS to prohibit GE Crops nationally twice and to prohibit neonicotinoid pesticides on refuges once. The Center for Biological Diversity and Beyond Pesticides co-signed the second legal petition, filed in February last year.
Given the recent FWS no-GE/no-neonics policy, the groups do not anticipate the need for further litigation on these subjects. However, they are closely monitoring the ban to ensure it is not honeycombed with exceptions.
For information on what you can do to protect bees and other pollinators, see Beyond Pesticides BEE Protective campaign information.
Source: Press Release
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.