USDA-Appointed Committee proposed â€œco-existenceâ€ policy which would harm conventional growers, endanger U.S. organic industry.
This article is posted with permission from Center for Food Safety.Â Â
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The Center for Food Safety (â€œThe Centerâ€) issued a position paper today critical of proposals made by the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21), a group appointed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to recommend action on organic and non-genetically engineered (GE) crop contamination issues.Â The Centerâ€™s sharp response comes as concerns mount over AC21â€™s proposed â€œco-existenceâ€ recommendations, which would institutionalize an allowable level of transgenic contamination in crops across the U.S.Â If implemented, the proposal would infringe upon the rights of farmers to grow non-genetically engineered crops and require the victims of contamination â€“ organic and conventional growers â€“ to buy insurance or pay into a fund to compensate themselves for unwanted contamination, lost markets and other damages.
The Center submitted its paper to AC21 Chairman Russell C. Redding, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack and committee members in advance of the groupâ€™s meeting next week.
â€œCo-existence isnâ€™t protection, it is forced genetically engineered contamination,â€ said Center for Food Safetyâ€™s organic policy coordinator Lisa J. Bunin, Ph.D.Â â€œThe only reasonable protection for organic and non-genetically engineered farmers is for USDA to mandate a moratorium on the planting of new genetically engineered crops until it can demonstrate that contamination can be prevented.â€
At the heart of the AC21 committeeâ€™s draft report is the recommendation to prioritize â€œgood neighbor-to-neighbor relations as the key to minimizing transgenic contamination.â€Â Claiming that farmers prefer â€œvoluntary innovation and incentives,â€ the committee sidestepped the need to directly protect farmers through mandatory contamination prevention practices and regulations.Â While better relations between neighbors can help, they provide no legal, binding or reliable assurances that concrete prevention measures will be taken by the genetically engineered technology users when disagreements arise and a compromise cannot be reached.