Farmers stood up for seed integrity last week in Corvallis, OR, where a listening session on GE sugar beets provided a forum for discussing USDA’s recently released environmental impact statement (EIS). GE sugar beets have been grown in the Willamette Valley since 2005.
Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed in Philomath, OR, took to the microphone and shared: “Roundup ready sugar beet[s] had already been planted in the valley. So we had no way to protect ourselves at that time. Swiss chard and table beet seed grown here is in danger of being contaminated.” Morton is an organic seed producer, and along with OSA and other farmers and farm groups, successfully argued in court that USDA acted illegally when it deregulated GE sugar beets without proper review of economic, environmental, and social implications. The result of that case was the court-ordered EIS.
Morton says the threat of contamination is already impacting his business. And Universal Seed Company of Independence, OR, concurred, testifying that the GE trait has already crossed with its chard and beet seed. Others said they have found GE sugar beets growing in fields where the beets were supposed to have been cleared away.
Another grower shared this: “It’s almost inevitable that you will eventually see the GE traits in the non-GE varieties. Well, that’s an unacceptable risk to us. We have a burgeoning organic seed industry that is under direct threat from genetically-modified crops. And I don’t want to mortgage the future of our ability to provide organic food so that Monsanto can line their pockets.”