Genetically Engineered Crop Contamination Is Spreading In The US
We need to keep a vigilant eye and protect our seeds. The problem with crosscontamination is that, because those seeds are patented if they contaminate your crops, your seeds become the property of the big corporations that produced them in the first place, or you are infringing in their patent. You can't save them, plant them nor sell them.
A recent USDA report acknowledging the spread of genetically engineered alfalfa into the wild is just further proof of what natural health advocates have known for a long time: that genetically engineered crops cannot “coexist” with traditional, organic agriculture.
The report details the findings of a USDA team that analyzed three areas where alfalfa is grown: California, Idaho, and Washington. Of the over 400 areas the researchers studied, over a quarter (27%) contained GE alfalfa with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready-resistant gene. The study’s results stated that “transgenic [GE] plants could spread transgenes to neighboring feral plants, and potentially to neighboring non-GE fields.”
This should come as no surprise. In 2013, a Washington farmer intending to grow non-GE alfalfa had his crop rejected by a broker after evidence of genetic modification appeared. Contamination alsoaffected alfalfa exports to China after shipments tested positive for Monsanto’s Roundup Ready gene. When farmers complained to the USDA that their crops were rejected for export, the agency did nothing. In a letter to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), state agricultural officials blithely noted at the time that the levels of contamination were “within ranges acceptable to much of the marketplace”—except, of course, for foreign importers, on whom many farmers rely for income.
The problem is getting worse. Farmers in Oregon, fighting for a bill that would allow local governments to regulate crops and seeds, recently told legislators that contamination leads to real financial losses: “We lose money when we have a GMO contamination event, which I’ve had happen twice. We lose money directly, as have other growers,” said one organic farmer at a committee hearing.
When the biotech industry targets organic farmers, the farmers lose. Look at Steve Marsh, an organic farmer in Western Australia. He claimed he lost organic certification on approximately 70 percent of his property after winds carried his neighbor’s Roundup Ready canola seeds onto his farm in 2010. Unfortunately, Monsanto financially supported his neighbor’s defense, and Marsh lost the case. The Supreme Court of Western Australia has denied Marsh any further appeals—and told him he has to pay court costs of about $804,000. So it looks like Monsanto won’t be out a single penny, while Marsh lost practically half his growing income for three years because of the contamination. He’s now trying desperately to hang on to the farm itself.
There’s more bad news. Our sources tell us that Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is intending to introduce another voluntary GMO labeling bill that would preempt state initiatives to mandate the labeling of GMO foods, much like the legislation from Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS). It is unclear whether this is separate from the efforts of Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) on similar legislation. The biotech industry and the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) are working hard to enact federal preemption legislation as soon as possible to prevent Vermont’s law from going into effect in July 2017.
There is, however, some good news on the GMO front. The recently approved AquaAdvantage genetically engineered salmon (“Frankenfish”) will not come to market until the FDA completes guidelines on how the GE fish should be labeled. This is entirely thanks to language added to the 2016 omnibus budget bill by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK). Additionally, a mandatory labeling bill in New York, A.617, was recently approved by the Committee on Consumer Affairs. It must now be approved by the Codes Committee.
There is also a lot of action at the state level to pass mandatory labeling legislation. Check below to see if your state is one of them, and click on the link to take action. Importantly, New Hampshire and Massachusetts are considering legislation which, if approved, will kick Maine’s GMO labeling law into effect. In New Hampshire’s case the situation is particularly urgent—the House Environment and Agriculture Committee recently gave the bill an unfavorable recommendation in a 12-to-7 vote. Legislators in New Hampshire—and all other states considering labeling bills—must hear from their constituents that a consumer’s right to know matters.