March 3, 2014
This week, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture wraps up its comment period on the feasibility of genetically engineered (GMO) and non-GMO crops to coexist, Food & Water Watch in partnership with the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM) releases survey results that clearly show contamination from GMO crops is happening and it’s non-GMO farmers who are paying the price.
The survey of farmers across 17 states, but primarily in the Midwest, is an effort to fill the data gap that was used to justify an inadequate policy recommendation by the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). Heavily weighted with biotech proponents, the committee gathered for a series of meetings in 2011 and 2012 to establish a protocol for coexistence and to design a compensation mechanism for farmers who are economically harmed by contamination from GMO crops. Unfortunately, the committee was unable to estimate the costs associated with GMO presence on non-GMO and organic farms due to a lack of data. Their final suggestion for a compensation mechanism was a form of crop insurance that included, in one proposal, a premium to be paid by producers of non-GMO crops.
“If USDA really wanted to know if contamination was happening, all they had to do was ask organic grain producers who take great pains to keep their crops from being contaminated,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Now USDA can no longer claim ignorance about this problem.”