Remember Percy Schmeiser? Remember the case in Canadian courts in which he was sued by Monsanto for contamination of his crops with stray Monsanto seeds? And how he lost at the Supreme Court? Following along from that precedent, the onus is clearly, if unfairly, being put on non-GMO farmers whose crops are contaminated with stray GMO pollination or whatnot from the crops of their GMO growing neighbours.
How long will it be before it’ll cost more to insure your non-GMO crop against contamination than it will cost to use GMO seeds in the first place. Meanwhile organic standards will inevitably get diluted to recognize the impossibility of keeping the ubiquitous contamination out. Sadly it looks like the madness that is GMO farming, is becoming ever more entrenched on this continent.
“One of the big debates in agriculture right now involves “coexistence” between farmers who use genetically modified or GMO seeds and those who don’t. This is far more than an academic debate; in question is the risk of “contamination” of conventional or organic crops by GMO crops. The wind, insects, and even the farmers themselves can inadvertently cause this type of cross-pollination, and it puts organic farms at risk of losing their organic status and conventional farmers at risk of losing sales to countries that don’t allow imports of GMO foods.
The risk of such “transgenic” contamination has grown along with the market share of biotech seeds developed by Monsanto and DuPont — to the point that around 90 percent of corn, 90 percent of soy, and 80 percent of cotton grown in the U.S. is genetically modified.
Now, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is stepping in. Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, a USDA advisory board released a report [PDF] recommending that the government offer a special form of crop insurance for farmers concerned about GMO contamination.
The USDA advisory group, called AC21 (short for the Advisory Committee on 21st Century Agriculture), is meant to represent the industry as a whole. The group included participants from all sectors of agriculture: large, small, conventional, and organic, including executives, farmers, and researchers. In reality, however, around three-quarters of the participants represent groups or organizations affiliated with big agribusiness, such as the American Farm Bureau, the National Corn Growers Association, and the American Soybean Association. And while USDA Chief Tom Vilsack had the good sense not to put a Monsanto representative on the board, DuPont, another major biotech firm, managed to get its top lawyer appointed.
So it should come as no surprise that organic trade groups attacked the board’s conclusion as far too generous to the interests of the biotech industry and the farmers who use its seeds. According to Reuters, the National Organic Coalition lashed out in a press release:
“This proposal allows USDA and the agricultural biotechnology industry to abdicate responsibility for preventing [GMO] contamination while making the victims of [GMO] pollution pay for damages resulting from transgenic contamination,” it said.
But the reality of the report is less conclusive. The authors themselves acknowledge that “members of the AC21 are not in agreement” on whether contamination is even a problem, much less on how to compensate for it.
In general, the report reads like something the members came up with under bureaucratic duress. There are no real, specific recommendations, merely a list of “things USDA could do” to address genetic contamination (which the report says may or may not be occurring) if one day it chooses to do so….”