neighbors

A new report released by the USDA’s Advisory Committee of Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture received condemnation by the National Organic Coalition—an alliance of organizations focused on maintaining the integrity of organic standards.

According to a press release from the NOC, the report in question recommends that farmers not growing GMO crops, be they farming organic or just non-GMO conventional crops, take costly steps to insure themselves against contamination from GMO crops. “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 in a statement released by the coalition. “This ill-conceived solution of penalizing the victim is fundamentally unjust and fails to address the root cause of the problem – transgenic contamination.”

The NOC claims that in August 2011, the USDA-appointed AC21 group was tasked with determining compensation recommendations for farmers who’d lost crops due to GMO contamination. According to the NOC, the AC21’s “underlying assumption” was that “as long as farmers are adequately compensated, GE contamination is a permissible and acceptable cost of doing business for organic and non-GE farmers.”

With no current established scientific evidence that shows cross-contamination of GMO crops to non-GMO crops can be effectively prevented in open agriculture, the NOC executive director Liana Hoodes said of the compensation model put forth by AC21, “This is completely the wrong approach to tackling the GE contamination problem,” adding that the USDA “must prevent GE contamination by mandating pollution prevention measures and by making transgenic polluters, including GE technology owners, pay for their contamination.”

The report also received criticism from the NOC for recommending that GMO farmers and non-GMO farmer neighbors develop “co-existence agreements,” which is difficult, according to the coalition because contamination makes organic and non-GMO farmers “the clear losers under these conditions, as GE contamination precludes them from growing the crops of their choice.”

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