Organic farmers and others who do not use GMOs are increasingly under assault by GMO contamination and often left holding the bag, a survey released Monday reveals.
"The risks and effects of GMO contamination have unfairly burdened organic and non-GMO farmers with extra work, longer hours and financial insecurity," according to research done by watchdog group Food & Water Watch in conjunction with the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM).
The survey comes as the USDA wraps up its public comment period on the feasibility of coexistence between GMO and non-GMO crops.
However, according to Food & Water Watch, USDA policy recommendations have been based on protocols written by the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21)—which is "heavily weighted with biotech proponents"—without proper data on the the cost and other impacts of coexistence on organic and non-GMO growers.
“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.”
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As quoted in a summary of the survey of 1,500 farmers across 17 primarily Midwestern states, the findings include:
- Nearly half of respondents are skeptical that GMO and non-GMO crop production can coexist.
- Over two-thirds do not think good stewardship alone is enough to protect organic and non-GMO farmers from contamination.
- Five out of six responding farmers are concerned about GMO contamination impacting their farm, with 60 percent saying they are extremely concerned.
- One out of three responding farmers have dealt with GMO contamination on their farm. Of those contaminated farmers, over half have been rejected by their buyers for that reason. They reported a median cost of a rejected semi load (approximately 1,000 bushels) of $4,500.
As one farmer wrote in response: "Monsanto and allies are spending millions buying votes to vote against GMO labeling in the stores! They should pay for insurance for GMO contamination on organic land. All the big boys care about is their bottom line. They have to be held accountable if their [GMO seed] contaminates my crop!"
Contamination can occur through one of two ways: Gene flow is a result of cross-pollination, which is driven by wind or pollinators' dispersal of GMO seeds; and the co-mingling of GMO seeds can occur through handling, transport, storage or processing.
"Instead of an extended discussion of coexistence," the report notes, "the USDA must recognize the harm that is already being done to organic and non-GMO farmers and prioritize ways to prevent contamination."
Other recommendations from the researchers include: placing the burden of responsibility on biotech and seed companies holding GMO seed patents for "all losses associated with GMO contamination," including paying into a compensation fund for farmers impacted by contamination; and creating and enforcing mandatory stewardship requirements for GMO crop production.