Starting January 2016, genetically modified crops will be banned from all federal wildlife refuges. Neonicotinoid pesticides – a type of poison linked to Colony Collapse Disorder in honeybee populations and nerve disorders in birds, mammals and fish – will also be banned.
This federal ban will take effect across the 150 million acres managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service nationwide. It follows the agency’s move earlier this month to ban neonicotinoids in the country’s Pacific Region, which includes Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands.
In a July 9 memo, regional chief for the National Wildlife Refuge System Kevin Forrester wrote, “The Pacific Region will begin a phased approach to eliminate the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (by any method) to grow agricultural crops for wildlife on National Wildlife Refuge System lands, effectively immediately.”
As takepart notes, this latest federal ban goes even further, banning not only neonics but also genetically modified seeds from the national wildlife refuge system.
James Kurth, chief of the National Wildlife Refuge System, explained the new policy in a July 17 memo: “We do not use genetically modified organisms in refuge management unless we determine their use is essential to accomplishing refuge purpose(s). We have demonstrated our ability to successfully accomplish refuge purposes over the past two years without using genetically modified crops, therefore it is no longer to say their use is essential to meet wildlife management objectives.”
In the same memo, Kurth notes that neonicotinoid pesticides “can affect a broad spectrum of non-target species,” which “is not consistent with Service policy.” Neonics have been shown to affect the nervous systems of honeybees and other animals. Other pesticides, such as Monsanto’s “Roundup” herbicide, have also been linked to declining populations of monarch butterflies.
The federal ban has been applauded by Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.