Greens Say U.S. Gives a Pass to Poisons
OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - Uncle Sam is illegally allowing farmers to plant genetically modified crops and use "highly toxic" pesticides in five national wildlife refuges and wetlands, environmentalists claim in a federal lawsuit.
The Center for Food Safety et al. ask the court to bar the Secretary of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from allowing any cultivation of crops on the federal refuges until site-specific environmental analyses are completed.
Joining as plaintiffs are Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, the Sierra Club and Beyond Pesticides.
They claim the Fish and Wildlife Service entered into cooperative farming agreements with private farmers, allowing five federal refuges in the Midwest "to be farmed with conventional crops with the use of highly toxic pesticides, and some of which allow NWR [National Wildlife Refuge] land to be farmed with genetically engineered (GE) crops. In doing so, FWS authorized farming absent a review of the refuge-specific impacts that pesticides and/or GE crops will have on the environment. This suit specifically challenges particular farming practices authorized by defendants at each of the following refuges: Crab Orchard NWR, Cypress Creek NWR, Iowa WMD [Wetlands Management District], Swan Lake NWR, and Detroit Lakes WMD."
Crab Orchard and Cypress Creek are in Illinois; Swan Lake is Missouri; Detroit Lakes is in Minnesota.
The National Environmental Policy Act requires the government to perform site-specific analyses before entering into farming contracts, according to the lawsuit.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this year leased at least 17,000 acres of land in the Midwest for cooperative farming, but failed to provide site-specific analyses for any of the agreements, or for pesticide use, or for genetically engineered crops in the federal refuges, according to the lawsuit.
"The decision to allow the cultivation of crops on the refuges must be invalidated because it was made in violation of NEPA, in that the NEPA documentation did not adequately analyze the site-specific impacts of pesticide use on the environment of each refuge," the complaint states. "The EAs [environmental assessments] prepared by FWS in connection with its decision to allow farming on the refuges, including the region-wide EA issued in 2011, are inadequate and flawed, and FWS's reliance on them to permit farming on particular refuges was and is arbitrary and capricious, an abuse of discretion, otherwise not in accordance with law, and without observance of procedures required by law."
The plaintiffs want planting of genetically modified crops and the use of toxic pesticides in the refuges enjoined until impact studies are done.
They are represented by Paige M. Tomaselli with the Center for Food Safety.