April 5, 2006

U.S. Interior Dept. sued over GMO plantings

By Carey Gillam

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - A coalition concerned
about the cultivation of genetically modified crops in wildlife
refuge areas filed suit against the U.S. Interior Department on
Wednesday, saying government workers illegally approved the

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Wilmington,
Delaware, seeks to block further cultivation of the crops at
the Prime Hook refuge outside Dover, Delaware. Prime Hook is
one of more than 500 federal wildlife refuges.

It named as defendants the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and
its parent agency, the Interior Department. The plaintiffs are
the Delaware Audubon Society, Public Employees for
Environmental Responsibility and the Center for Food Safety.

The plaintiffs said they discovered "a top Bush
administration political appointee" overruled the wildlife
refuge manager in allowing the genetically altered crops to be
planted on land designated as a national wildlife refuge in
violation of department policy.

Officials with Fish and Wildlife and the Interior
Department declined to comment immediately.

The plaintiffs say the genetically modified crops and the
pesticides associated with growing them can have negative
effects on birds, aquatic animals, other wildlife and plant

"These refuges are supposed to be for wildlife, not
chemical companies or agribusiness," Gene Hocutt, a spokesman
for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, or PEER,
said in a statement announcing the lawsuit. "Plowing up native
grasses for mutated row crops constitutes biological
malpractice of the highest order and a betrayal of the purposes
of the National Wildlife Refuge System."

As many as 100,000 acres of refuge lands are under
cultivation to genetically modified crops, according to agency
documents obtained by PEER under the Freedom of Information