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Some public servants do their work in secret

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Three environmental organizations have filed suit in federal court to stop the planting of genetically-modified crops on federal lands in the South.

The suit takes aim at cooperative farmer programs administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under these programs, farmers sign a lease agreement requiring them to leave a percentage of their crop unharvested for waterfowl.

Defendants in the suit are USDA and FWS.

Three environmental organizations have filed suit in federal court to stop the planting of genetically-modified crops on federal lands in the South.

The suit takes aim at cooperative farmer programs administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Under these programs, farmers sign a lease agreement requiring them to leave a percentage of their crop unharvested for waterfowl. Crops planted may include milo, soybeans, corn, rice and millet. Defendants in the suit are USDA and FWS.

You can see the suit here: http://www.courthousenews.com/2011/08/15/GEFoods.pdf.

I imagine there’s big money behind this lawsuit. A similar one was successful in halting the cooperative farmer program in a 12-state area in the northeast. FWS in the region decided to end the program altogether rather than spend money defending the planting of GE crops.

We hope that southern leadership will stand firm for a program and a technology that has been mutually beneficial to farmers, wildlife and the general public for years.

In an interview with Delta Farm Press in 2009, Jonathan Windley, a wildlife biologist at the Cache River Wildlife Refuge in Arkansas, explained the value of the cooperative farmer program.

 “We have to provide a certain amount of duck energy days for the waterfowl that rest on this refuge. A large part of that comes from the crops that are grown here, whether it’s rice or milo, or moist soil or other flooded up areas. If we didn’t have the cooperative farmer here, we would not come close to meeting those duck energy days. It would be detrimental to the success of the refuge.”

One of the three groups filing the lawsuit is the mysterious Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility,a diverse collection of government employees apparently bound by their distaste for genetic engineering. That’s about all I can tell you though. Members of PEER would rather you not know who they are.

This we do know. The PEER Web site describes a typical PEER member as a government employee “who is working to change his or her agency for the better, to reform it and to make it more accountable to the public. Using PEER as a vehicle, employees can safely and effectively become anonymous activists for environmental protection.”

Translated – a public servant can sue his own agency though PEER, and no one in the break room will ever be the wiser.

A more dubious explanation of PEER is that it provides a vehicle for disgruntled public servants to impose their personal agendas on the rest of us, something they could not do in the spotlight of the public eye, or under the scrutiny of their bosses.

PEER refers to some of its members who are party to the lawsuit as “FWS professionals who are being harmed by practices they believe are detrimental to the refuges …”

Who these public servants are, we may never know. They prefer to do their work in secret.  

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