New Survey: Organic Farmers Pay the Price for GMO Contamination

canolaflower110203_ARSWe know contamination is a huge problem for farmers who don’t grow genetically engineered (GE) crops. With one day left for the public to submit comments to the USDA on “coexistence”Food & Water Watch in partnership with the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM) has released survey results that clearly show contamination from GMO crops is happening and it’s non-GMO farmers who are paying the price.

Read the survey results: Organic Farmers Pay the Price for GMO Contamination (opens to PDF).

The survey of farmers across 17 states, but primarily in the Midwest, is an effort to fill the data gap that was used to justify an inadequate policy recommendation by the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21). Heavily weighted with biotech proponents, the committee gathered for a series of meetings in 2011 and 2012 to establish a protocol for coexistence and to design a compensation mechanism for farmers who are economically harmed by contamination from GMO crops. Unfortunately, the committee was unable to estimate the costs associated with GMO presence on non-GMO and organic farms due to a lack of data. Their final suggestion for a compensation mechanism was a form of crop insurance that included, in one proposal, a premium to be paid by producers of non-GMO crops.

The survey results reveal that the risks and the effects of GMO contamination have unfairly burdened organic and non-GMO farmers with extra work, longer hours and financial insecurity, which has led to a general skepticism of coexistence amongst the organic community. Some even expressed the feeling that their chosen method of production is being seriously threatened. Meanwhile, GMO growers are not specifically required to mitigate the risk of contamination.

Survey highlights 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.

•  Nearly half of responding farmers would not choose to purchase crop insurance to cover losses associated with GMO contamination. And of those who would purchase insurance, three out of four reported that GMO patent holders, GMO users, or both of those entities should bear the liability burden for any economic loss associated with GMO contamination.

Public comments to USDA regarding “coexistence” recommendations given by AC21 are due March 4, 2014.

Submit comments electronically by following this link to Docket No. APHIS-2013-0047.

Read more about the recommendations on “coexistence” made by AC21 and talking points for comments here.

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