with them.” Stearns considers lawsuits
to stop GM crops as part of such engagement.
Laura Batcha, OTA’s chief of pol-
Liability and Indemnity
icy and external relations, says mean-
ingful coexistence requires that all
stakeholders—including the biotech-
nology industry—share responsibility
for preventing contamination. “Our
basic position is that you can’t coexist
without the ‘co.’ The status quo won’t
The fact that the burden of coexis-
tence is placed solely on organic and
non-GMO farmers goes against tradi-
tion in agriculture, says Fred
Kirschenmann, distinguished fellow at
the Leopold Center for Sustainable
Agriculture. A farmer must fence in
livestock so they don’t trespass onto a
neighbor’s farm. “The problem today
with GM crops is that we’ve reversed
that ethic and expect organic farmers
to fence the technology out,” he says.
The organic industry is united in its stand that biotechnology companies must take responsibility when their transgenes contaminate organic crops and cause economic harm to farmers. OTA, NOC and the
Organic Farming Research Foundation are calling for liability and
compensation to organic farmers who suffer losses due to GMO contamination. NOC recommends that a contamination compensation
fund be established under the USDA’s Farm Service Agency or Risk
Management Agency through a tax on GM crop developers.
The question of an indemnity fund was a point of sharp disagreement in the Coexistence Working Group with biotech members opposed to the idea and organic members saying it’s essential.
Round Two: GM Sugar Beets
Based on USDA’s decision with GM alfalfa, it seems doubtful that
the agency will address GMO concerns of the organic industry in future GM crop approvals unless the courts force it to do so. “This is the
first chapter, and this issue won’t go away until there is framework in
place to protect farmers and markets,” says OTA’s Batcha.
The second chapter has already begun with a similar lawsuit to stop
GM sugar beets, which pose a cross-pollination threat to organic Swiss
chard and table beets. Seeds for GM beets are grown in Oregon’s
Willamette Valley, a major seed growing area, in close proximity to
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