Obama Embraces GE Crops on Wildlife Refuges

COMMON DREAMS– The Obama administration has endorsed genetically engineered agriculture on more than 50 National Wildlife Refuges, with more GE-refuge approvals in the works, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The new plan is designed to insulate refuges from environmental court challenges in the wake of a lawsuit recently won by PEER and other groups which halted GE agriculture in all Northeastern refuges.

The national blitz of official filings is intended to remove a perceived barrier to the export of American GE crops – U.S. restrictions on growing GE crops on National Wildlife Refuges. Under a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS operates the refuges) policy, GE crops are banned from refuges unless determined to be “essential” to refuge operations. Countries leery of importing U.S. bio-engineered food have cited the policy as one basis for their concern.

Rather than overturn this FWS “Biological Integrity” policy outright, the White House has embarked on a region-by-region approach to file environmental paperwork justifying GE agriculture on – 31 refuge units across 8 Midwestern states; 25 refuges units in 12 Southeastern states; and an unspecified number of refuges in the 8-state Rocky Mountain Region.

The proposal for the Midwestern Refuges would allow more than 20,000 acres to be cultivated with no limits on how many acres could be GE crops. The public comment deadline for that plan is today. In its comments, PEER argues that the GE operations risk harm to wildlife, refuge plants and soil, while contending that there is no refuge purpose for which GE crops are essential, as required by FWS policy.

“These plans are based on the curious notion that wildlife benefit from having the small slivers of habitat set aside for them covered by genetically engineered soybeans,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the Midwest refuges are already surrounded by row crops, most of which are now GE. “To boost U.S. exports, the Obama administration is forcing wildlife refuges into political prostitution.”

In 2010, PEER, the Center for Food Safety and Delaware Audubon brought successful litigation charging that GE agriculture on refuges in the Northeast violated the Refuge Improvement Act as incompatible with refuge purposes and lacked reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act. That suit was settled when FWS agreed to stop commercial agriculture operations on all refuges within the region. These latest filings are supposed to shield refuges in other regions from similar suits based on failing to meet procedural requirements of environmental statutes. Future challenges would have to show that these new eco-reviews are impermissibly defective – a higher legal hurdle.

“The Obama administration says that it is devoted to scientific integrity but these new reviews are scientific travesties,” added Ruch, pointing to new Interior Department (which includes FWS) rules requiring that scientific information in decision- making “must be robust, of the highest quality, and the result of the most rigorous scientific processes as can be achieved.” “The sole document assessing the environmental impacts of genetically engineered planting in 25 Southeastern refuges is only six pages long.”

Increasingly the only seed available to U.S. farmers, especially for corn and soybeans, is GE. Ironically, it is the ubiquity of GE agriculture that FWS offers as the main reason it must allow these crops on refuges.


Read the PEER comments

View the EA for 31 Midwest Refuges

See proposed finding of no impact for GE crops on 25 Southeast Refuges

Examine draft EA for Rocky Mountain refuges

Look at litigation driving GE agriculture out of Northeast Refuges

Review the Interior Department’s new scientific integrity rules


Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER’s environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

Photo by flickr user Margaret Killjoy 


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Cell Phone Radiation Listed as Cancer Risk

RAW STORY– A new report from the World Health Organization (WHO) classifies cell phones as a possible carcinogen in the same category as lead, engine exhaust and chloroform.

A team of 31 scientists from 14 countries in the International Agency for Research on Cancer, the cancer arm of the World Health Organization, made the determination that cell phone exposure was “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” The team, which included scientists from the U.S., reached their conclusion after reviewing dozens of studies.

“The biggest problem we have is that we know most environmental factors take several decades of exposure before we really see the consequences,” Dr. Keith Black, chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, told CNN.

“What microwave radiation does in most simplistic terms is similar to what happens to food in microwaves, essentially cooking the brain. So in addition to leading to a development of cancer and tumors, there could be a whole host of other effects like cognitive memory function, since the memory temporal lobes are where we hold our cell phones,” he added.

Read the full article about Cell Phone Radiation Officially Listed a Potential Cancer Risk.

© 2011 RAW STORY

Photo by Flickr user jonjon_2k8

Tapped – Documentary on Bottled Water

TAPPED– The high cost – to both the environment and our health – of bottled water is the subject of this documentary that enlists activists, environmentalists, community leaders and others to expose the dark side of the bottled water industry.

Tapped trailer

Trapped, full film

Photo by flickr user stevendepolo

Prescription Pill Side Effects: Information Overload

SMART PLANET– Take a look at your prescription bottle. If you’ve noticed an increasing number of side effects on your prescription label, you aren’t alone.

According to a new study, researchers found that the average prescription drug label lists 70 potential side effects, reported WebMD. On the higher end, one medication in the study listed 525 potential side effects, reported WebMD.

“It’s out of control,” said Jon Duke, MD, an assistant professor of medicine at Indiana University School of Medicine, in a phone interview with SmartPlanet.

By looking at almost 5,600 drug labels, researchers were able to see which drugs had the highest list of side effects.

Read full article about Prescription Pill Side Effects – Information Overload.

© 2011 Smart Planet

Photo by flickr user Charles Williams

Oxfam: Food Prices to Double By 2030

UPI– International humanitarian organization Oxfam in Washington said global food prices could double in the next two decades.

The report released Tuesday, “Growing a Better Future,” said prices of staples such as corn were already at record highs.

The largest single factor, Oxfam said, is climate change. “Up to half of this rise is due to climate change and the world’s poorest people, who spend up to 80 percent of their income on food, will be hardest hit,” Oxfam said in a statement.

Rising prices for staples in 2010 “pushed an estimated 44 million people into poverty,” Oxfam said.

The report, which kicks off a GROW campaign within the organization, “catalogs the symptoms of today’s broken food system. It warns we have entered a new age of crisis,” Oxfam said.

Read more about Oxfam: Food Prices to Double By 2030.

© 2011 UPI

Photo by flickr user michaeloh

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