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 Wildlife 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.
Wildlife refuges commonly allow farmers to grow crops on their land, on the condition they leave some behind to feed wildlife.
Citing a May decision by a leadership team on agricultural practices on refuges, Kurth told refuge managers to phase out GMO crops and neonicotinoids by January 2016. Exceptions can be made, particularly on refuges that include lands mandated by law for agriculture use, such as the Tule Lake and Upper and Lower Klamath refuges in Northern California and southern Oregon.
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