Last year, the Center for Food Safety filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for allowing genetically modified crops to be planted in wildlife refuges in the agency’s Southwest Region. The plaintiffs claimed that the FWS violated environmental laws by allowing this practice.

On Tuesday October 24, a judge ruled in favor of the plaintiffs saying the environmental groups’ lawsuit was not moot as previously alleged by the defendants. The FWS has claimed the lawsuit was irrelevant since the agency agreed to stop allowing the practice after 2012. U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg wrote, “waiting for 2013 is not good enough… Plaintiffs allege harms that are currently occurring and will continue throughout 2012.”

The Center for Food Safety, Beyond Pesticides and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility filed suit saying that using genetically-modified crops harms beneficial insects, increases herbicide-resistant weeds, alters soil ecology and genetically contaminates natural plants. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) currently are grown in wildlife refuges in the FWS’ Southeast Region, which encompasses 10 states. The most common GMOs in the refuge areas are corn and soybeans resistant to the herbicide Roundup.

A comment left on Field & Stream’s post announcing the same decision by the judge said these GMOs could be having a harmful effect on wildlife in the area, especially deer. “All three of the deer that have been taken from my hunt club so far this year have had cancer,” Alex Grimaudo wrote. “One of the guys I hunt with is a doctor at Langley Airforce Base and believes that this excessive amount of cancer could bee related to the genetiacally modified crops in the area.”

Prior to this lawsuit, the environmental groups had filed two similar lawsuits in the state of Delaware and were successful in blocking GMOs  from two wildlife refuges in the northeast region, which encompasses 12 states.

Another hearing has been set for November 5 to attempt to get both sides to agree to some remedies and determine appropriate relief before further action is taken.

Image from Peter Blanchard on the flickr Creative Commons

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