While the movement for freedom from, and transparency regarding, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and crops in our food system is gaining ground worldwide, the risk for cross contamination remains a consistent problem.
Organic and non-GMO farmers are grossly outnumbered on commodity crops like corn and soy, and cross contamination is rampant to the point where many non-GMO farmers are forced to abandon growing them according to Organic Seed Growers and Trade Organization President Jim Gerritsen, whose group represents a wide range of American organic farmers.
Cross contamination from the known is one thing (and a costly problem to say the least), but many thousands of non-GMO farmers are also wary of the many “thousands if not tens of thousands” of experimental GMO crop test plots across the country that are currently not very well documented according to Gerritsen:
“The USDA system seems to be anarchy…there’s little documentation,” he said.
Gerritsen said that the lack of public identification of plots makes it hard to plan how to create “buffer zones,” a demand that is placed on non-GMO farmers who could potentially be sued by Monsanto if their crops test positive for “patented” GMO material they never wanted in the first place.
Non-GMO farmers have seen many incidents of organic and international markets rejecting their crops due to unwanted GMO contamination, and test plots are a major threat: several farmers saw their wheat exports rejected due to a mysterious case of GMO cross contamination last spring.
New test plots range from normal everyday crops that are being genetically modified to the bizarre, such as rice with human genes that has been growing on a test plot in Kansas.
But without identification, non-GMO, natural and organic farmers are left in the dark yet again by the USDA, which is why Gerritsen’s organization petitioned to USDA to place a moratorium on experimental crops until an identification system can be created.
“It’s an intolerable situation (for non-GMO famers),” Gerritsen said. “It’s completely out of control.”
Help on the Way? Oregon Plans to Begin Mapping GMO Plots
After a measure banning GMO crops in southern Oregon passed last month, Gov. John Kitzhaber directed the state’s Department of Agriculture to begin mapping where GMO crops are grown.
Also known as pinning, the measure will greatly aid organic farmers, work to set up buffer zones ahead of time and work to minimize cross-contamination, a very real problem that the mainstream media has virtually ignored during the ongoing GMO saga.
“Mapping would bring transparency to a system that’s extremely opaque,” George Kimbrell, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety, told The Associated Press. “It would allow for causation and traceability.”
Monsanto and other Biotech companies cite competitive reasons for not disclosing their test plot locations.
The Swiss GMO corporation Sygenta recently refused an attempt to map their locations, however, according to this article from the website Takepart, citing that it “does not fit with their business model.” They also said that the non-GMO and organic farmers do not wish to coexist with GMOs.
A digital map of farming communities is being proposed, which could be an excellent model for future mapping programs, and new GMO legislation could be introduced next year according to the Takepart article, Gov. Kitzhaber said.
For now, however, the guessing game continues for organic and non-GMO farmers whose livelihoods hang in the balance.
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