Monday, February 24, 2014

Australian Organic Farmer Loses Livelihood Over GMO‑Contaminated Crops

(Subject changed; it's not clear the farmer is suing. FDN could be clearer on the actual facts on the ground. - SB)

Details are taken from a Food Democracy Now petition:
Organic garden
Right now an important case is being heard halfway around the world in Western Australia about organic farmer Steve Marsh, whose organic field was contaminated by his neighbor’s genetically engineered canola. As a result, Steve lost his organic certification and as much as 70% of his Steve’s farm has been contaminated with Monsanto’s patented genes.

With clever fine print in their seed contracts, Monsanto is not legally liable for their patented genes contaminating an organic farmer’s field due to their "no liability" agreement farmers are forced to sign when they plant Monsanto's GMO seeds.

As a result, Steve’s family’s livelihood has been put at risk. He could literally lose everything.

Bolds original... after all, it is a promo for a petition and optional contribution. But the problem is agonizingly real for organic farmers everywhere. If Monsanto proceeds as it has to this point, we could literally end up with genetic contamination of every formerly organic crop everywhere.

It is hard to find any absolutes in the world of GMOs. The subject is scientifically complex, the determinations of safety rarely uninfluenced by commercial interest, and the dangers, if any, quite possibly very slow to appear in the food chain. The cases in which published papers opposing GMOs have been outright faked do not help matters. And there's no denying the substance of what Richard Schiffman says in the same article: whatever the problems in GMOs themselves, the worst thing about them is what they enable in the way of pesticide‑heavy agriculture using repeated dousing of crops to keep them bug-free.

Personally, I'm not happy with R=====p™ or R=====p‑Ready™ crops. It seems to me that the following is only fair, no matter what Monsanto may wish:
  • Foods made with GMOs should be labeled in all cases. That way, the consumer has a choice if s/he has an opinion.
  • Producers of GMO technology should be strictly liable for contamination of nearby organic crops, as GMO contamination renders formerly organic produce valueless.
  • Research on the safety of GMO technology should continue aggressively in an unbiased setting, which probably means not in a country in which GMOs are already heavily deployed (US, India, etc.).
Will that make a difference? Likely not. My best guess is that this sucker is going forward no matter what anyone does to hold it back. Welcome to your future... just remember, you have no say in it.

(I found quite a bit of background info on the blog Food Politics by Marion Nestle, NYU professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health.)

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