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Daily News Blog

12
Apr

Fish and Wildlife Service Sued for Failure to Disclose Use of Bee-Toxic Pesticides and GMO Crops in Wildlife Refuges

(Beyond Pesticides, April 12, 2019) The Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) announced on April 3 that it is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for its failure to release public records, despite multiple FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests, that would reveal on-the-ground impacts of FWS allowing use of neonicotinoids and genetically engineered (GE) crops in wildlife refuges. Last August, in yet another rollback of protections for wildlife, the environment, and public health, the Trump administration reversed a 2014 FWS decision to ban the use of neonicotinoids and GE crops in National Wildlife Refuges. If successful, the CBE lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, would compel the agency to provide the requested documents. This would allow the public, largely through the work of NGO (non-governmental organization) watchdogs, such as CBD and Beyond Pesticides, to understand what harms are being caused on the nation’s protected public lands by the administration’s reversal of the 2014 ban.

Hannah Connor, a CBD senior attorney, said, “The goal of the lawsuit is to get them to comply with the Freedom of Information Act and produce the records that have been requested. . . . We aren’t asking them to go above and beyond. We’re just asking them to comply with the law and bring some transparency to this process.” She also commented, “Pesticide-intensive farming has no place on America’s national wildlife refuges. The public has a right to know where and when these dangerous practices are being allowed to poison our refuges. These incredibly precious places were set up to protect wildlife, not industrial-scale commercial agriculture.”

Ms. Connor also noted, in The New Food Economy’s coverage of the matter, that CBD has encountered delays in getting documents via FOIA requests with past administrations, but has never faced a delay as protracted as this one with FWS. It is noteworthy and likely relevant that in December 2018, the Department of the Interior, under whose auspices FWS operates, submitted to the Federal Register proposed rule changes that could limit the number of FOIA requests an individual could submit, lengthen the turnaround for FOIA requests, and establish a level of “burden” that requesters should not exceed. This was done during a government shutdown without any public announcement or press release by the agency.

In 2014, advocates welcomed the announcement, by FWS, that it would ban neonicotinoid insecticides from all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016, as well as phase out the use of GE crops. The decision followed years of lawsuits and an intensive advocacy campaign by CFS, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), and Beyond Pesticides. It was a hopeful sign, in that FWS was the first federal agency to restrict the use of neonicotinoids based on the principle of precaution. At the time, Beyond Pesticides Executive Director Jay Feldman commented, “The FWS decision represents an important and responsible departure from EPA’s decision to allow the widespread use of neonicotinoids despite the non-target effects to managed and wild bees and other beneficial organisms.”

Then came the 2018 FWS announcement of the reversal, in which FWS said that genetically modified seeds, used together with neonicotinoids, “[maximize] crop production” — pointing to the friendliness the Trump administration exhibits toward industry, in this case, the agrochemical sector, and to its relative indifference to environmental, public, and wildlife health. Very soon after that announcement, CBD and the Center for Food Safety (CFS) sued the administration over the reversal, citing the FWS’s failure to consider the risks of increased pesticide use for threatened species that rely, for food, habitat, and protection, on national wildlife refuges. Earlier in 2018, CBD released a report, No Refuge, that documented the intensive use of pesticides on lands designated as refuges for wildlife and protected under U.S. law.

That use amounted, in 2016 alone, to 490,000 pounds of pesticides sprayed on crops grown in national wildlife refuges. As of that year, the refuge systems that endured the heaviest use of pesticides were the Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex, the Central Arkansas Refuge Complex, the West Tennessee Refuge Complex, the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. Intensive commercial farming — and use of pesticides — have spiked with the advent of GE crops, such as corn and soybeans. Increased pesticide use threatens the long-term health of these sensitive habitats and the wildlife that depend on them.

Beyond Pesticides wrote, back in 2012: “Farming has long been used on national wildlife refuges for multiple purposes like habitat restoration, which involves destroying invasive species to make room for native plants. However, in recent years, refuge farming has been converted to GE crops because the agency claims GE seed is the only seed farmers can obtain today. These GE crops are mostly engineered for a single purpose: to be resistant to herbicides, mainly Monsanto’s ubiquitous Roundup. Because the crops are tolerant to herbicides, their plantings lead to more frequent applications and increased amounts of toxic herbicides. This overreliance on herbicides used in GE cropping systems has fostered an epidemic of herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds’ in the past decade as weeds have mutated.”

The 2014 ban would have protected wildlife broadly, as well as honeybees, bumblebees, and other pollinators, from the impacts of neonicotinoids, which are primarily implicated in the devastation of pollinator populations, as well as the federally threatened and endangered pollinators that live in National Wildlife Refuges. These compounds are also contributing to the dramatic drops in overall insect abundance, which some scientists label as a coming “insect apocalypse.” Research has identified astonishing reductions in insect “biomass,” including that there were, in the 1970s, 60 times as many insects in some locations as there are currently, and that more than 75% of the insect decline occurred from 1990–2017. As Beyond Pesticides has noted, “pesticide use in these sensitive areas poses risks to pollinators, aquatic organisms, migratory birds, and other wildlife on refuges that were created to protect them.”

The Beyond Pesticides Daily News Blog is a great source for timely news on pesticide issues, including emerging research, developments in legal and governmental rulings, and efforts by localities and grassroots organizations to protect human and environmental health and integrity. Look for opportunities to advocate for less-toxic approaches to pest management in agriculture, homes and buildings, gardens, public and private lands, and more, through Beyond Pesticides’ Action of the Week.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: https://newfoodeconomy.org/neonicotinoid-ban-reversal-center-for-biological-diversity-trump-lawsuit-fish-wildlife-service/?utm_source=New+Food+Economy+Subscribers&utm_campaign=c2aa114246-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2019_04_09_08_13&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_75a28a0eaf-c2aa114246-511587865

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One Response to “Fish and Wildlife Service Sued for Failure to Disclose Use of Bee-Toxic Pesticides and GMO Crops in Wildlife Refuges”

  1. 1
    Crystal Says:

    I am so thankful for this. I could not believe when I found out they hire people to hike miles up in the wilderness and spray toxic chemicals in our beautiful mountains of Montana.

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