GMO Contamination? USDA Suggests Sticking Small Farmers With the Bill

GMO contamination, GMOs, genetically modified, USDA, AC21 Advisory Board, AC21, AC21 report, organic, farming, agribusiness, dupont, American Soybean Association
Soybeans, Hardin County, Ohio

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 He also contributes to Guardian Sustainable BusinessInhabitat and Earth911. You can follow Leon and ask him questions on Twitter or Instagram (greengopost).

Image credit: Wikipedia (Nyttend)

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

8 responses

    1. Our farm and several others in Southern OR have been contaminated by GE Round-up Resistant sugar beets, grown by SYNGENTA from Switzerland, where it is illegal to grow them.

    2. in my case my nongmo soybeans were cross polinated by bees we believe one pod in about 1% of the plants have 1 bean in pod one those plants if the beans become crossed they must be crushed or otherwise destoyed anot used for seed contained seed will spread like wildfire monsanto will not even send a rep out when the farmer find the problem as monsanto does not CARE what is does to thease smaller markets this hapen in 2012 with 2 different types of soybeans i planted it very bad that is why the farmers are so upset monsanto has very deep pockets cannot aford good legal help 5198879299 or 2262221429 brusels ont canada

Leave a Reply