| March 3
March 3 Growing crops free from contamination by
genetically modified crops and the pesticides used on those
biotech versions is getting more difficult and more costly for
U.S. farmers, and new government rules to control contamination
are needed, according to report issued on Monday by an
environmental organization and an organic food group.
Based on information from 268 farmers from 17 U.S. states,
the report said more than 30 percent of farmers seeking to grow
organic crops reported that unintended GMO presence has been
found or suspected on their farms, according to the report by
Food & Water Watch and the Organic Farmers' Agency for
Relationship Marketing (OFARM).
The report comes as the U.S. Department of Agriculture is
taking public comments on a plan for "enhancing co-existence" of
non-GMO and GMO crops. The public comment period ends March 4.
Farmers trying to grow non-GMO crops have to take many steps
and spend sometimes several thousands of dollars to try to
protect their crops from the GMO crops that have become
pervasive across the United States, the groups said.
"The risks and the effects of GMO contamination have
unfairly burdened organic and non-GMO farmers with extra work,
longer hours and financial insecurity," the report states.
Industry proponents of biotech crops had no immediate
comment on the report, but have stated in the past that they are
supportive of efforts to try to maintain separation of non-GMO
and GMO crops, but they see economic losses as individual
The level of contamination of non-GMO crops by GMO crops is
an area of concern because some foreign buyers of U.S. crops
will not accept genetically modified versions. Some domestic
buyers also want only non-GMO. Contamination can cause financial
loss when buyers reject loads that test positive for GMO
Last summer, an Oregon wheat farmer found an unapproved type
of biotech wheat developed by Monsanto Co growing in his
field. Some foreign wheat buyers temporarily suspended purchases
of U.S. wheat because of fears of contamination of their
Separately, a Washington state alfalfa farmer had a load of
his alfalfa rejected for export after it became contaminated
with a commercially approved type of biotech alfalfa also
developed in part by Monsanto.
The USDA has said it is investigating the wheat
contamination but not the alfalfa case. The agency does not
track reports of contamination of non-GMO crops by GMO crops
approved for commercial use, according to USDA spokesman Richard
Bell. The agency only tracks that information when the
contamination is connected to a biotech crop not yet approved
for commercial release, he told Reuters.
Food & Water Watch is calling for USDA to start tracking and
analyzing incidences of contamination and associated economic
losses at all levels of the supply chain. And the group also is
asking for USDA to require GMO crop growers to create buffer
zones between their fields and non-GMO farm fields, and hold
biotech seed companies financially accountable for losses
associated with GMO contamination.
Monsanto introduced genetically modified crops in 1996 and
since then many companies have been selling a range of
genetically engineered crops that resist Roundup herbicide and
fight off harmful pests.