Judge OK's genetically modified crops on national wildlife refuges

A federal judge says genetically modified crops can be planted on national wildlife refuges in the Midwest.

Herbicide-resistant crops are used to prepare land for native habitat restoration, said Rick Speer, assistant refuge supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Midwest region. The agency limits the use of the genetically modified crops to native habitat restoration projects, but environmental groups sued to stop the practice.

"Whether you're planting native grasses, developing wetlands or trying to plant trees for forested habitat, it just gives you a better chance for success starting with a fairly clean seedbed," Speer said.

The judge's ruling affirms the agency followed environmental rules when it established a policy to use genetically modified crops, he said. While the USFWS also uses farm crops for habitat management, to provide food for wildlife, and attract wildlife for public viewing and photography, the Midwest region does not allow the use of genetically modified crops for those purposes.

"It's very important. It provides for greater success of our restoration efforts," Speer said. "And this alternative, we selected it based on the benefits to the natural resources and a desire to have the least impact on the environment."

Center for Food Safety Attorney Paige Tomaselli said she is disappointed by the ruling. The advocacy group is considering an appeal of the judges decision, she said.

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