The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Trump Admin Reverses Ban on 'Bee-Killing' Pesticides in National Wildlife Refuges
The Trump administration has lifted an Obama-era ban on the use of genetically modified crops and pesticides linked to bee decline in certain national wildlife refuges where farming is allowed, Reuters reported Saturday.
In a memo signed Aug. 2, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Principal Deputy Director Gregory J. Sheehan said the move was necessary to provide adequate food for waterfowl.
"There may be situations, however, where use of GMO crop seeds is essential to best fulfill the purposes of the refuge and the needs of birds and other wildlife," Sheehan wrote.
Boosting waterfowl populations dovetails with the interests of sportspeople who hunt ducks and other birds, and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has made expanding hunting on national lands a priority, Reuters reported.
But environmental groups argue the decision comes at the expense of other species.
"Industrial agriculture has no place on public lands dedicated to conservation of biological diversity and the protection of our most vulnerable species, including pollinators like bumble bees and monarch butterflies. The Trump administration's approval to use toxic pesticides and genetically modified crops is an insult to our national wildlife refuges and the wildlife that rely on them," President and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife Jamie Rappaport Clark said in a statement.
Jim Kurth, head of the refuge system under Obama, announced the ban in 2014, arguing that the use of neonicotinoids led to plants whose tissues harmed "non-target" species. Moreover, he said that "refuges throughout the country successfully meet wildlife management objectives without" genetically modified crops or the pesticides they are engineered to withstand, Reuters reported.
Defenders of Wildlife further noted that the populations of game birds like geese and ducks are currently doing fine without the help of genetically modified crops.
Sheehan, however, has reversed the blanket ban and said that the use of genetically modified crops and neonicotinoids would be considered in the more than 50 farming-friendly refuges on a case-by-case basis.
The move came a day after California's Department of Pesticide Regulation released a risk assessment finding that the use of four neonicotinoids on certain crops, including the corn and sorghum often grown in refuges, could cause more harm to pollinators than previously thought, The Center for Biological Diversity reported.
"Agricultural pesticides, especially bee-killing neonics, have no place on our national wildlife refuges," senior Center for Biological Diversity attorney Hannah Connor said. "This huge backward step will harm bees and other pollinators already in steep decline simply to appease pesticide-makers and promote mono-culture farming techniques that trigger increased pesticide use. It's senseless and shameful."
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
A jury in Missouri awarded a farmer $265 million in a lawsuit that claimed Bayer and BASF's weedkiller destroyed his peach orchard, as Reuters reported.
A coalition of local and national groups on Friday launched a legal challenge to a Louisiana state agency's decision to approve air permits for a $9.4 billion petrochemical complex that Taiwan-based Formosa Plastics Group plans to build in the region nationally known as "Cancer Alley."
Well, he told us he would do it. And now he's actually doing it — or at least trying to. Late last week, President Trump, via the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management, announced that he was formalizing his plan to develop lands that once belonged within the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments in southern Utah. The former is a stunningly beautiful, ecologically fragile landscape that has played a crucial role in Native American culture in the Southwest for thousands of years; the latter, just as beautiful, is one of the richest and most important paleontological sites in North America.
Hundreds of thousands of mussels that cooked to death off the New Zealand coast are likely casualties of the climate crisis.