GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — National wildlife refuges around the country are phasing out genetically modified crops and a class of pesticides related to nicotine in programs meant to provide food for wildlife.
A July 17 letter from James W. Kurth, chief of the national refuge system, makes no specific mention of any concerns that the pesticides or the crops pose risks to wildlife or pollinators, such as bees and butterflies. It just says they don't fit refuge objectives, such as promoting natural ecosystems.
"We make this decision based on a precautionary approach to our wildlife management practices, and not on agricultural practices," he wrote.
But it comes after a July order to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides on wildlife refuges in the Northwest and Hawaii that mentioned concerns about harm to bees and after a White House memorandum directing federal agencies to promote pollinator health in the face significant losses in recent decades of insects, bats and birds that pollinate fruits, nuts and vegetables.
Conservation and food safety groups also petitioned for the change.
"Fish and Wildlife by this action is showing tremendous leadership in standing up for wildlife and banning two of the most harmful practices in agriculture," said Lori Ann Burd, endangered species campaign director for the Center for Biological Diversity. "Now is the time to take this ban beyond refuges."
Wildlife refuges commonly allow farmers to grow crops on their land, on the condition they leave some behind to feed wildlife.
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