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How GE Crops Hurt Farmers

How GE Crops Hurt Farmers

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With the rise of GE crops, coexistence between organic, non-GE and
GE production has become more diffi cult due to the potential for gene fl ow and
commingling of crops at both the planting and harvesting levels.
With the rise of GE crops, coexistence between organic, non-GE and
GE production has become more diffi cult due to the potential for gene fl ow and
commingling of crops at both the planting and harvesting levels.

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Published by: Food and Water Watch on Jul 19, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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How GE Crops Hurt Farmers
In official government jargon, this mixing is referred toas “adventitious presence,” but what it means is thatGE crops can contaminate non-GE and organic cropsthrough cross-pollination on the field or through seed orgrain mixing after harvest.
Not only does GE contami-nation affect seed purity, but it also has serious ramifica-tions for organic and non-GE farmers that face economicharm due to lost markets or decreased crop values.
Farmers Face Economic Loss
The financial burden associated with GE contaminationis significant. Some of the costs to non-GE and organicfarmers include the loss of market access, risks to long-term investments associated with the crop or one type of production, and the expense of putting in place preven-tative measures to avoid contamination. Preventativemeasures include creating buffer zones around fields,which can result in reduced crop yield; record-keeping;testing and surveillance of a crop; and segregation,maintenance and cleaning during all steps of the supplychain.Additionally, consumers who are interested in buyingnon-GE foods know that they can rely on organic andnon-GE labeled food products, but the threat of con-tamination reduces the confidence that consumers havein those products. The undermining of consumer confi-dence is yet another cost of contamination — or even of just the threat of contamination.Farmers who intentionally grow GE crops are not re-quired to plant non-GE buffer zones to prevent contami-nation unless this is stipulated in the farm’s permit fromthe U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Yet even theuse of buffer zones has proven ineffective because theseareas are usually not large enough to prevent contami-nation.
Data gathered by the Organic Trade Association illus-trates that some grain buyers reject loads of crops thathave a more than 0.9 percent GE presence, resulting in0.25 percent of non-GE soybean loads and 3.5 percentof non-GE corn loads being rejected. A rejection by theload’s intended buyer means a lost premium for thatnon-GE product. The estimated loss from market rejec-tions alone is $40 million annually.
enetically engineered (GE) crops now dominate commodity cropproduction in the United States. GE varieties make up 88 percent of cornacres, 94 percent of soybean acres and 90 percent of cotton acres planted in thecountry.
With the rise of GE crops, coexistence between organic, non-GE and
GE production has become more difficult due to the potential for gene flow and
commingling of crops at both the planting and harvesting levels.
act Seet Juy 1 
Paths of Contamination
Gene flow
– Gene flow is a natural process that fostersbiological diversity in a plant population by shuffl inggenetic information from the pollen or seeds of closelyrelated individuals.
In crops of the same species, GEcrops can “outcross” or “cross-pollinate” non-GE cropsthrough wind dispersal or pollinators.
Some self-polli-nating crops can still be cross-pollinated — like canola,which can outcross with nearby plants up to 55 percentof the time.
– After a crop is harvested, there are sev-eral steps during which GE and non-GE seeds or grainscan become mixed. This can happen during handling ortransport if machinery is not cleaned properly, or due toa quality-control failure or human error during storageor processing.
Organic dairy farmers already face difficulty securingorganic feed, and this challenge will only worsen if GE alfalfa begins to contaminate organic alfalfa.
TheUSDA’s approval of Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2010highlights the significant ramifications that contamina-tion can have for organic producers. Alfalfa is the mostimportant feed crop for dairy cows.
Organic dairyfarmers receive a price premium for their milk, but theyalso have production costs of $5 to $7 more per hun-dred pounds of milk — 38 percent higher than for con-ventional dairies.
If GE contamination eliminates thispremium, which is mostly eaten up by higher organicproduction costs, these farms could be unprofitable.Growers of non-GE and organic sugar beets and relatedcrops — like table beets and chard — also face the pos-sibility of contamination from nearby Roundup Readysugar beet growers, as well as the potential economiceffects associated with a tainted harvest.
Over 50percent of U.S. sugar beet seed production occurs inOregon’s Willamette Valley, also home to about half of the country’s swiss chard seed production.
The Willa-mette Valley Specialty Seed Association requires that GEplants remain three miles from non-GE chard and beetseed producers, yet sugar beet pollen has been knownto travel as far as five miles.
If contaminated, farmers producing non-GE and organiccrops can also lose access to international markets.Many other countries have stricter GE regulations andlabeling requirements than the United States. Despitethe advanced U.S. grain-handling system, GE grainshave contaminated non-GE shipments and devastatedU.S. exports.The Government Accountability Office identified sixknown unauthorized releases of GE crops between2000 and 2008.
In 2000, Japan discovered GE Star-Link corn, which was not approved for human food,in 70 percent of tested samples, even though StarLinkrepresented under one percent of U.S. corn cultiva-tion.
After the StarLink discovery, the European Unionbanned all U.S. corn imports, costing U.S. farmers $300million.
In August 2006, unapproved GE Liberty Linkrice was found to have contaminated conventional ricestocks.
Japan halted all U.S. rice imports and the EUimposed heavy restrictions, costing the U.S. rice indus-try $1.2 billion.
Legal Implications of 
Patented Gene Contamination
Besides the threat of economic harm from contamina-tion, farmers who unintentionally grow patented GEseeds or who harvest crops that are cross-pollinatedwith GE traits could face costly lawsuits by biotechnolo-gy firms for “seed piracy.” By 2007, Monsanto had filed112 lawsuits against U.S. farmers for patent infringe-ment, recovering between $85.7 and $160.6 million.
At least one farmer contends that he was sued when hiscanola fields were contaminated with GE crops fromneighboring farms.

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