The collapse of Proposition 37 may already seem to be a faraway political memory, but the controversy over GMOs (genetically modified crops) still festers. A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) advisory board has developed a roadmap on how farmers whose crops become cross-contaminated by GMO seeds–and lose their status as organic or non-GMO producers–could find ways to “co-exist” with biotech agriculture.
Key to the advisory board’s report was the discussion of insurance and “joint coexistence” schemes in the event a farm became subjected to “unintended GE [genetically engineered] presence in identity-preserved products.” Central to the board’s recommendations was the recommendation of a “crop insurance model” to address such “potential inequities.” In English, conventional or organic farmers would have to buy insurance in the event their crops became affected by GMOs.
According to the AC21 (Advisory Committee on 21st Century Agriculture), farmers could eventually safeguard themselves by the purchase of insurance in the event of such GMO contamination. Growers who had such “joint coexistence” activities with neighboring farms growing GMO crops would score a reduction in such premiums. Such a plan, however, would only work if a wide participation of conventional and organic farmers occurred. In other words, companies such as Monsanto and Dupont, which dominate the market of genetically modified corn, soy and cotton, would be off the hook while farmers and taxpayers would bear most of such costs. In fact, the AC21 report suggests that in the event a farmer ever suffered such losses, the onus would be on the farmer to prove both the financial loss, and the magnitude of such losses–and minimize any “potential adverse impacts on innovation or trade.”
Naturally, organic farmers and food safety advocates were unimpressed. The National Organic Coalition (NOC), led by one the organization’s members, Andrew Kimbrell, responded to the AC21 report with exasperation:
“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. This ill-conceived solution of penalizing the victim is fundamentally unjust and fails to address the root cause of the problem – transgeniccontamination.”
While the AC21 Advisory Board appears to be a representation of American agriculture, representatives from DuPont, the American Soybean Association, the American Farm Bureau and National Corn Growers Association were among those on the advisory committee. Tom Laskawy, a writer for Grist, claims that three-quarters of the board’s members were from big agribusinesses. Meanwhile, the American Farm Bureau was pleased with the recommendation.
Watch for the debate over GMOs to rage on; and future trade wars and skirmishes to unfold as more countries raise their eyebrows over U.S. farm imports.
Leon Kaye, based in Fresno, California, is a sustainability consultant and the editor of GreenGoPost.com. He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable Business, Inhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).
Image credit: Wikipedia (Nyttend)