By 2016, national wildlife refuges across the country will discontinue their use of genetically modified crops and certain pesticides.
J.D. Bricken, manager of Pee Dee Wildlife Refuge in Wadesboro, said that the order will affect the local refuge. The refuge has a cooperative farming program that allows farmers to harvest 80 percent of the crop, leaving 20 percent standing to provide food and shelter to wildlife. With the new ban, farmers will still be able to participate in the program, but they will have to use non-genetically modified crops on refuge property.
Along with other wildlife refuges, Pee Dee has used seeds genetically modified to resist the herbicide glyphosate, which is commercially sold as Roundup. With Roundup Ready corn, the seeds are immune to the Roundup that farmers spray to kill weeds. This ensures a greater crop unaffected by the pesticides, and saves time for farmers.
Monsanto, the world’s leading producer of Roundup brand agricultural herbicides, claims on its website that its products are a “perfect fit with the vision of sustainable agriculture and environmental protection.” Additionally, it says that Roundup Ready crops have “allowed farmers to conserve fuel and decrease the overall amount of agricultural herbicides used,”as farmers can simply use Roundup rather than an assortment of herbicides that may affect their crops.
A letter written July 17 by James W. Kurth, head of the national refuge system, was quoted by the Associated Press. According to the AP, the letter does not mention any environmental concerns about the pesticides or GMOs, but does say that the products do not align with refuge objectives. “We make this decision based on a precautionary approach to our wildlife management practices, and not on agricultural practices,” he wrote.
Refuge managers were told to phase out GMO crops and neonicotinoid pesticides, which may be linked to bee deaths, by January 2016.
Bricken said the refuge will work to find acceptable products to use on refuge property. “We rely on crops for wildlife, but we’ll figure out some way to continue because we’re obligated to farm food and cover for the wildlife,” he said.