A decision to rollback an Obama-era ban on neonicotinoids, which was put in place to help protect bees and other pollinators after research linked their decline to pesticides, was announced in a memo by the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. The change would now allow “the use of genetically modified crops and pesticides in certain national wildlife refuges where farming is allowed,” EcoWatch reported.
The memo, which was put out by Gregory J. Sheehan, principal deputy director of the Service dated August 2, cited the ban was lifted in order to provide necessary food for waterfowl on national wildlife refuges, which is associated with the likes of hunters of ducks and other birds.
“Industrial agriculture has no place on public lands dedicated to conservation of biological diversity and the protection of our most vulnerable species, including pollinators like bumble bees and monarch butterflies,” Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CRO of Defenders of Wildlife, said in a statement. “The Trump administration’s approval to use toxic pesticides and genetically modified crops is an insult to our national wildlife refuges and the wildlife that rely on them.”
The ban was put in place in 2014 by the Obama administration in order to protect bees and other pollinators from “being harmed by genetically modified crops and/or the pesticides they are engineered to withstand,” Reuters reported.
But Sheehan wrote in the memo that “there may be situations, however, where use of GMO crop seeds is essential to best fulfill the purposes of the refuge and the needs of birds and other wildlife,” which is in line with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s agenda to expand hunting on national lands.
While research concluded that neonicotinoids cause bee decline, a new study conducted by the California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation “released a risk assessment finding that the use of four neonicotinoids on certain crops, including the corn and sorghum often grown in refuges, could cause more harm to pollinators than previously thought,” EcoWatch reported.
“Agricultural pesticides, especially bee-killing neonics, have no place on our national wildlife refuges,” Hannah Connor, senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, said. “This huge backward step will harm bees and other pollinators already in steep decline simply to appease pesticide-makers and promote mono-culture farming techniques that trigger increased pesticide use. It’s senseless and shameful.”