Organic farmers and allies have slammed a USDA committee report for kowtowing to the interests of genetically modified crop growers and the biotechnology industry.
The goal of the USDA-appointed committee, the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21), was to address contamination by genetically modified (also known as genetically engineered, or GE) crops to organic and non-GE crops, and to look at compensation mechanisms for that contamination.
Reuters reports that "a majority of AC21 members did not agree on any type of compensation mechanism" for the non-GE growers in their report, leaving the responsibility with "the victim," not the perpetrator of the contamination.
The National Organic Coalition (NOC), an alliance of organizations involved in organic agriculture, condemned the report for "abdicat[ing] responsibility for preventing GE contamination, while making the victim of GE pollution pay for damages resulting from transgenic contamination."
“The AC21 report takes responsibility for GE contamination prevention out of the hands of USDA and the biotech industry where it belongs and puts it squarely on the backs of organic and non-GE farmers,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director at Center for Food Safety and a NOC member. “This ill-conceived solution of penalizing the victim is fundamentally unjust and fails to address the root cause of the problem -- transgenic contamination.”
Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food and Water Watch, says “This is a completely wrong approach to tackling the GE contamination problem,” and adds:
It is outrageous that those being most harmed by GE contamination are the ones that would be responsible for paying into an insurance program outlined in the report. The liable party for contamination should be the patent holder of the gene technology, not the farmer who grows its seed. The companies that profit from the technology should develop a fund from which contaminated farmers can be compensated. Yet during the committee’s meetings, there was virtually no discussion about the idea of a patent-holder funded compensation fund.
Liana Hoodes, NOC’s Executive Director echoed Hauter in saying AC21's recommendation "is a completely wrong approach to tackling the GE contamination problem.” She adds: “At the bare minimum, USDA must stop approving additional GE crops, and prevent GE contamination by mandating pollution prevention measures, as well as make transgenic polluters, including GE technology owners, pay for their contamination.”
A better solution, says Hauter, is to put a moratorium on genetically modified crops.
“Instead of favoring the biotech industry, a more equitable solution for the growing problem of genetic contamination would be for the USDA to enact a moratorium on GE crop approvals until the agency develops a stronger stance on preventing contamination,” stated Hauter.