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Current USDA policy is to try and make GMO crops and non-GMO crops in the US co-exist. However, a great majority of US organic farmers now say that policy is not working.

Of U.S. farmers that took part in a new survey, the results of which were released on Monday, more than 80 percent reported being concerned over the impact of genetically modified (GM) crops on their farms, with some 60 percent saying they’re “very concerned”.

The findings come as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has taken the unusual step of extending the public comment period for a controversial study on how GM and non-GM crops can “coexist”. During a major review in 2011-12, the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) concluded that it lacked sufficient data to decide on the extent to which GM contamination was happening in the United States, or to estimate the related costs incurred by organic and other non-GM farmers.

The problem is that the USDA did not ask in the right places.

“The USDA said they didn’t have this data, but all they had to do was ask,” Oren Holle, a farmer in the midwestern state of Kansas and president of the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), which assisted in the new study’s production, told IPS.

“Our very strong feeling is that the introduction and propagation of the genetically modified products that are coming out under patent at this point have not had the regulatory oversight that they should have, and need to involve a far broader section of stakeholders. USDA has been extremely lax and, in our opinion, that’s due to the excessive influence of the biotech industry in political circles.”

And USDA regulations put organic and non-GMO farmers at a competitive disadvantage.
In the new study, nearly half of the farmers polled said they did not believe that GM and non-GM crops could ever “coexist”, while more than two-thirds said that “good stewardship” is insufficient to address contamination.

“The USDA’s focus on coexistence and crop insurance is misplaced,” Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said Monday, referring to an AC21 recommendation that GM contamination problems be dealt with through a federal insurance scheme set up to lessen the impact of natural disasters.

“The department must recognise the harm that is already being done to organic and non-GMO farmers and put the responsibility squarely where it belongs – with the biotech companies … Now USDA can no longer claim ignorance about this problem.”

Even as contamination reports continue to grow, the U.S. government’s most recent response, drawn from the AC21 recommendations, has been to encourage “good stewardship” practices and communication between neighbouring farmers. Yet non-GM farmers say that, in practice, this has meant substantial outlays of both time and money in order to safeguard their crops – and virtually no corresponding responsibility on the part of farmers using genetically modified crops.

Organic and non-GMO farmers, as the article notes, have to forego tens of thousands of dollars in income to create a buffer between themselves and neighboring GMO crops, with no similar requirement of responsibility for the GMO producer. The problem is that these policies represent a substantial infringement on property rights. For example, I have the right to play whatever music I want to in my apartment. However, I do not have the right to play it so loud that it interferes with your ability to sleep at night. The same concept is here as well, on a much larger scale.

This may create some unlikely allies in this struggle. Here in Missouri, when Matt Blunt was governor, the state sought to build a massive GMO facility. But Anheuser Busch killed it by threatening a massive lawsuit because they did not want it anywhere near where they grow their corn and contaminate their beer. They did not want it within 150 miles of where they grow their corn. For them, the risk was too great that it would contaminate their corn.

The industry should have to prove that their product is safe and not able to contaminate neighboring fields. Otherwise, they should not be allowed to sell or grow their products within this country. That is a basic requirement of food, medicine, and drugs as well.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Where that contamination comes from, (18+ / 0-)

    pollen blowing in the air, is why A-B wanted a 150 mile buffer. Someone, whether it's the organic farmers assoc. or the state or the Feds, need to put up a series of pollen traps (say, 20 feet in on the organic farmers' land) and analyze the contents. And if they find GMO contamination, SUE THE SH!T out of Monsanto and the other GMO producers (neatly identified by the genetic makeup of the pollen).
    Right now, the GMO giants have the clout to sue small farmers out of existence (google: Percy Schmeiser). But it's their product that has become a pollutant and is damaging the land and livelihood of these small farmers.
    For that, they should be forced to pay.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:45:01 AM PST

  •  The product has been proven safe (6+ / 0-)

    People just refuse to believe the evidence.

    I believe the scientific organizations we created to ensure our health over the paranoia of those who promote organic agriculture. To do otherwise is to fall into the same trap that Republicans do when discussing climate change.

    (I make this last point very pointedly, as I'm sure the WHO and the Society of Toxicology will almost certainly be accused of paid shillery in the responses below, and I want to go on record as stating that this is exactly the kind of argument that Republicans use about climate change. It's disgraceful to find this crap on DKos, a "reality based community".)

    TX-17 (Bill Flores-R), TX Sen-14 (Kirk Watson-D), TX HD-50 (Celia Israel-D)

    by Le Champignon on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 09:50:05 AM PST

  •  all according to plan (4+ / 0-)

    Your crops can't help but cross-fertilize with wind-blown GMO pollen - and all grains and corn are wind-pollinated - and since your seeds now have Monsanto, ADM, etc's patented genes in them, they're now legally the property of Monsanto, ADM, or whoever.  Pay us for using our proprietary technology or we'll sue you.

    Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

    by Visceral on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 11:16:47 AM PST

  •  but speaking of contamination . . . (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    flowerfarmer, RiveroftheWest

    well, that's what putting corn in beer actually is, isn't it?  

    (/semisnarkyaside.  Actually I'm with those who think people should have the freedom to raise and consume non-GMO products for whatever reason, or for none at all.)

    Dogs from the street can have all the desirable qualities that one could want from pet dogs. Most adopted stray dogs are usually humble and exceptionally faithful to their owners as if they are grateful for this kindness. -- H.M. Bhumibol Adulyadej

    by corvo on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 11:42:37 AM PST

  •  Simple legislative fix (0+ / 0-)

    Organic labeling is only allowed an exception to labeling laws explicitly (otherwise, you may not label food expressing a difference where there is none, chemically.)

    Just strike the no-GMO requirement from the law and the problem is solved.

  •  "Coexist"? And if pigs had wings...... n/t (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    “My soul is from elsewhere, I'm sure of that, and I intend to end up there." - Rumi

    by LamontCranston on Tue Mar 04, 2014 at 02:56:54 PM PST

  •  Eternal hope, thanks for the diary.. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, Eternal Hope

    which is about GMO contamination of non-GMO conventional and organic products as a violation of property rights.

    "Genetic trespass" in other words.

    Comments about GMOs supposed safety is actually off topic.

    GMO apologists are fond of obfuscating with the large body of industry-funded GMO studies which reminds me of the old adage used by scientists who will take their data and split it into several papers rather than just one for one simple reason: Although deans cannot read, they can count.

    Safety aside, genetic trespass damages other farmer's property rights and can render their crops unmarketable. And farmers are banding together to fight this threat to their farms as they are in my county.

    See FOOD FIGHT: Oregon on Frontlines

    We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

    by occupystephanie on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:39:04 AM PST

  •  And that Seralini paper always comes up... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RiveroftheWest, Eternal Hope

    and I do not know why it is used by GMO defenders since it is the most egregious example of Monsanto et al bullying tactics to control the science. Perhaps it is seen as quite damaging to the brand which it is.

    I would actually like to refer you to one of Marc Brazeau's diaries where he brings up the Seralini study in which he gets a response from the authors of the ethics committee which excoriated the journal for its retraction. It speaks for itself:

    •    Bioethics Forum author reply (1+ / 0-)
    By all accounts in this case, Gilles-Eric Séralini and colleagues followed the normal route when seeking publication of their study. The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology expressed interest in considering this study for publication, when other journals did not, and the study passed peer review with only minor revisions required. Most importantly, the editors then accepted the findings of their reviewers and published the paper. One can disagree with the reviewers, or one can disagree with the editors, but this is the process we as scientists have accepted.

    The scientific peer review process is imperfect and is subject to manipulation. Reviews, especially anonymous reviews, can be colored by conflicts of interest, intellectual biases, personal allegiances, or petty jealousies. As a result, and as we stated in our Bioethics Forum piece, the literature is filled with imperfect, inconclusive and simply bad science. Perhaps the reviewers or editors even recognized the shortcomings of he Séralini study, but decided that elements of the study made important contributions to a GMO literature that is similarly filled with imperfect, inconclusive and simply bad science conducted by industry: who knows? In any case, we deliberately chose not to comment on scientific aspects of the Séralini controversy, focusing instead on critiquing a journal’s unusual retraction of a study that had passed the accepted sequence of peer review and that had not subsequently been shown to be fraudulent, plagiarized, or mistaken.

    Mr. Brazeau argues that the conflicts of interests of those in the orchestrated letters to the editor are beside the point because their criticisms are valid. He seems to view conflicts of interest as only a petty annoyance, or as a red herring. In fact, industry-paid researchers will always have more resources and incentives to drown out the voices of non-industry-paid researchers, and that fact interferes with the self-correcting nature of science.

    Mr. Brazeau’s claim is a classic "the ends justify the means" argument that is only attractive to those who concur with the result. A strong, well-subscribed publication standard, such as that of the Committee on Publication Ethics, provides justification not only for actions that some approve of, but for what is right and just. Ethical standards provide the bulwark that helps protect science from fraud, error, and commercial interests. In this case, the editors’ actions violated the international standard for the peer review and publication process.

    Thomas G. Sherman, PhD
    Adriane Fugh-Berman, MD

    by shermant on Sat Jan 18, 2014 at 04:41:44 AM PST

    We have it within our power to make the world over again ~ Thomas Paine

    by occupystephanie on Wed Mar 05, 2014 at 06:53:03 AM PST

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