Most of the time, agriculture stands up to environmental extremists with sound science, reputable studies and steely nerve. Other times, the courts get involved.
For example, under pressure from a recent court settlement in Delaware, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) decided to not allow the planting of genetically modified crops this year on government lands in the Southeast Region, which reaches from Arkansas to the Carolinas.
FWS will instead prepare a programmatic environmental assessment (PEA) “to evaluate the future use of genetically modified crops (primarily corn and soybeans) on national wildlife refuges in the Southeast Region that allow farming,” the FWS Web site says.
The PEA will determine whether genetically-modified seeds “will continue to be used in conjunction with non-genetically-modified crop seeds in the Southeast Region or whether their continued use would have significant environmental effects warranting further, more detailed, analysis through an environmental impact statement.”
Environmentalists told the court that genetically modified crops pose harm to beneficial insects, increase prevalence of resistant weeds, alter soil ecology, cause genetic contamination of natural plants and harm to amphibians and birds that eat herbicide-tainted crops.
This goes against years of numerous exhaustive studies on genetically-engineered crops proving their safety, not to mention the fact that farmers have flooded fields for wildlife behind genetically-engineered crops for years, on both refuge and traditional farming lands.
Farmers not only profit (which was still legal the last time I checked) by farming refuge lands, but help FWS meet refuge-specific goals and objectives. Many of the lease agreements require farmers to leave a percentage of the crop in the field for wildlife. It’s a natural symmetry and synergy between industry, government and environment that has proven itself over and over.
The sad thing is that one of the litigants, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, includes public servants, some of whom work for FWS. The PEER Web site describes a PEER member as a government employee “who is working to change his or her agency for the better, to reform it and to make it more accountable to the public. Using PEER as a vehicle, employees can safely and effectively become anonymous activists for environmental protection.”
In other words, they can use their PEER membership to sue their own boss if they don’t like what he’s doing.
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While there’s not much anyone can do to reverse the PEA process, supporters of agriculture can get involved and make sure that their voices are heard. Click Getting Involved http://bit.ly/13lAxWW  for more information.A number of public meetings were held in June, but there is still time to express your views during the comment period, which closes on July 28, 2013.
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