Health Impact News Editor
GMO cross contamination with organic farms is a huge problem in the United States. All of the current regulations and laws (or lack thereof) in place favor biotechnology and their GMO products, as the United States has among the least restrictive GMO regulations in the world.
I personally just returned from visiting some of our small-scale family farmers in western Wisconsin, and the ability to grow uncontaminated open-pollinated heirloom corn is one the biggest concerns local farmers have in Wisconsin. Last year, we tested one heirloom variety produced in that area and it had become contaminated with GMO varieties grown in a neighbor’s field. The farmers located another variety that we tested and found free from GMO contamination, but it is becoming more and more difficult to find such corn in the United States. Most of the organic corn in the U.S. is now contaminated with GMO varieties.
So this year, our farmers researched their neighbor’s GMO crops and determined the pollination period and calculated when they would pollinate, and then planted their open pollinated heirloom organic corn at a later date, hoping to avoid cross-contamination again. We work in a very rural community where it is fairly easy to find out what the neighbors are planting. But in much of the U.S., this is not the case.
Kristina Bravo of Takepart.com is reporting that the State of Oregon is trying to take action to map GMO fields to protect their non-GMO and organic industry. Oregon has been hit especially hard in this area, as an Oregon farmer last year found an unapproved GMO variety of wheat growing in his field (see: Unapproved GMO Wheat Found In Oregon). This immediately resulted in several countries around the world that import U.S. wheat putting a halt on U.S. shipments due to their total ban on GMO wheat, hurting the export market for non-GMO wheat, such as the varieties grown in Oregon and Washington. Most of the world market has restrictions or out right bans on GMO products.
This loss of export income prompted several lawsuits against Monsanto, who years earlier had carried out field trials on GMO wheat. This GMO variety of wheat was never approved, and the test fields the trials were done in were planted more than 10 years ago. Monsanto apparently has some political clout with the Department of Justice, however, as they were able to consolidate at least 14 lawsuits into a single class action suit transferred to a district court in its home state of Missouri. Whether or not the losses these non-GMO farmers incurred will be legally reimbursed by Monsanto is uncertain at this point.
In the meantime, Oregon is attempting to take measures to protect its non-GMO crops. Earlier this year, two counties in Oregon voted for a total ban of GMO crops. This action was accomplished in spite of the fact that Biotech companies poured in about $1 million to try to influence voters. It didn’t work, as voters overwhelmingly approved the bans.
Oregon is now taking further steps to protect their non-GMO farmers, leading the way nationally in the fight against Biotech and the contamination of non-GMO crops, which is resulting in the loss of U.S. exports worldwide. Takepart.com is reporting that Gov. John Kitzhaber is directing the State’s agriculture department to chart where genetically modified crops are grown, so non-GMO farmers can plan accordingly and seek to minimize the damage from cross contamination.
However, producers of GMO seeds such as Monsanto and Syngenta do not publicly disclose their field locations. These companies repeat the USDA assertion that GMO farmers and non-GMO farmers can “co-exist” and that mapping is not necessary.
Oregon is proceeding with digital mapping anyway, and Gov. Kitzhaber has said that new GMO legislation could be introduced in next year’s session.
One has to wonder if more action against GMOs at the local and state level will not continue, as the United States begins to lose its export market due to the political protection enjoyed by the Biotech companies at the federal level? Besides the two counties in Oregon that recently banned GMO crops, a mayor in Hawaii also signed into law a GMO ban last year (see: Hawaii Mayor Signs into Law Ban on GMOs).
Is the federal government’s protection of Biotech’s GMO products, both in Republican and Democratic presidencies since the 1990s, going to continue betraying smaller farms across America’s heartland? When are they going to wake up to the fact that the rest of the world does not share their GMO values and that they will refuse to import U.S. agricultural products tainted with GMOs?
Earlier this year, China rejected 1.45 million tons of U.S. corn because it was a GMO variety not approved for sale in China (see: U.S. GMO Policy Hurting Exports, Costing Jobs, As China Rejects US GMO Corn). Brazil ended up getting those lost orders of corn, and now Brazil is apparently seizing upon the market opportunities opening up due to U.S. GMO policy. Japan, Korea, Europe, now even Russia all have strict restrictions or total bans on imports of GMO products.
Polls show that an overwhelming majority of American consumers want GMO products labeled, and producers of GMO products fully understand that if their products are labeled as GMO in the market place, consumers will not buy them. In addition, most of the rest of the world will not import them.
Apparently the U.S. Government and the Biotech industry have taken it upon themselves to decide what is best for America and the rest of the world, and have no qualms with polluting the entire U.S. agricultural system with their genetically modified products.