- - Friday, August 15, 2014

It’s not easy for a radical to stand out in the Obama administration, but the bureaucrats at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are trying. Under their latest scheme, revealed in a leaked memo, the fishy people will ban certain safe pesticides and genetically modified crops by 2016 on the millions of acres in the national wildlife refuges. This goes athwart the established policy of the administration — and against the facts, which demonstrate that both the chemicals and crops are safe.

The language used by scientists is partly to blame for fear of the new. “Genetically modified” sounds scary, conjuring images of Dr. Frankenstein and his laboratory, but agronomists have been creating hybrid plants since Gregor Mendel, an Augustinian friar, cracked the genetic code in the 19th century with his experiments with peas.

The fishy people have blamed a shortage of bees, necessary for the pollination of plants, on an insecticide derived from a synthetic form of nicotine called neonicotinoids, which are absorbed by plants and become a part of their natural defense against certain pests. This targeted system of pest control, less toxic than other chemicals to humans, animals and certain insects, has revolutionized farming. But it’s the scary language that lends it to attacks by the toxic left.

This isn’t the first time the Fish and Wildlife Service has tied itself in knots to make sense of a political ideology. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell incurred the cold wrath of Alaskans last year when she proposed a sensible land swap that should have pleased everybody, even the dedicated naysayers on the left. Approved by Congress in 2009, the land exchange would have traded 56,000 acres of state and tribal land for 206 acres in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge to enable construction of a highway connecting a remote Aleutian fishing village to an airstrip, offering the village access to medical care.

The naysayers complained that the road would upset birds in the refuge. “Are birds really more important than people?” asked the borough mayor. “It seems so hard to believe that the federal government finds it impossible to accommodate both wildlife and human beings. Is the Obama administration turning its back on Native Americans?”

Manufactured hysteria prevailed. Several environmental groups — Beyond Pesticides, Center for Food Safety and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility — crowed that it was their relentless lawsuits that won the day. Their success looked more the result of a stacked deck. Bureaucrats of the Fish and Wildlife Service are members of one of the groups that sued the service. “One of the litigants, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), includes [employees], some of whom work for Fish and Wildlife Service,” noted Delta Farm Press.

“The PEER Web site describes a 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. Employees can safely and effectively become anonymous activists for environmental protection.’ In other words, they can use their PEER membership to sue their own boss if they don’t like what he’s doing.”

Some of the bees are still missing, though not in the numbers claimed earlier. The White House has appointed a bee czar and a task force on pollinators and promised a decision by December. The czar is expected to take counsel with science rather than with his fears. But with a czar, you never know.