USDA is on the Wrong Course When it Comes to GE Crops

Mark Keating's picture

By Mark Keating, OFRF Policy Consultant

          Today is the deadline for submitting your comments to USDA on the future of “coexistence”, the term the Department uses to describe the working relationship between farmers raising organic and non-GE crops and those who do plant GE varieties.  It is important that you share your informed opinion on this subject with the USDA since it must by law take into account the public comment it receives when formulating future policies.

        OFRF prepared an action alert highlighting specific concerns you can cite regarding USDA’s coexistence policies and our own comment outlines broader objections.  Please take the time TODAY to visit and tell USDA that you are among the millions of Americans who support organic farming and that the chronic contamination from GE crops which its policies have sanctioned must come to an end.

          A new USDA report entitled Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States makes it abundantly clear that we have no time to lose in convincing USDA to reverse course.  The report establishes that more than 169 million acres of American farmland were planted in GE crops last year when GE varieties accounted for more than ninety percent of the corn, soybeans and cotton acreage.  As alarming as those numbers are, they account for only two-fifths of the staggering 420 million acres of GE crops planted in twenty-eight countries globally in 2013.

            The report seeks to cast the widespread adoption of GE crops in a favorable light, especially among American farmers, by citing many of the theoretical benefits which the biotechnology industry has long promised.  It highlights studies suggesting that GE cropping systems can achieve reduced application of pesticides, foods with enhanced nutritional characteristics (evidence here remains completely theoretical) and improved soil conservation through conservation tillage practices.  The report acknowledges the confirmed emergence of widespread resistance among targeted weed and insect pests to pesticides used in tandem with the first generation of GE crops, but takes discomforting assurance in the hope that by “stacking” GE traits (inserting multiple characteristics) into future varieties, we may stay a step ahead of the game. This is wishful thinking and speculation at its worst.  The report neglects to mention how GE varieties have accelerated monoculture production at the expense of sound conservation practices such as crop rotation and grazing, thereby driving up land prices, increasing concentration of ownership and driving family farmers off the land. It has also resulted in a large increase in the pounds of pesticides being applied.

            Genetically Engineered Crops in the United States makes it all too clear that, left to its own devices, USDA will continue to spin GE cropping systems as a boon to farmers, consumers and the environment no matter how much contrary evidence emerges.  But it is also wishful thinking on the part of organic farmers that their operations won’t be effected by GE crop use. Between drifting pesticides and GMO contamination and lawsuits by chemical companies, the organic industry should see the USDA’s stance as a threat to its future. That’s why it is so important that you submit a constructive comment on USDA’s coexistence policy TODAY.  We can indeed have an agriculture which reduces pesticide usage, improves the quality of our food and protects the land for future generations – it’s called organic farming and we need to let USDA here our message loud and clear.

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