WASHINGTON, April 18, 2012 -USDA’s own National Organic Standards Board is hoping to push Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to side with organic farmers in the debate over coexistence. A six-member NOSB ad hoc committee wants his help making biotech companies and biotech crop farmers responsible if organic crops lose value because of the unintended presence of biotech traits.

The USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, which Vilsack appointed last year, has been debating whether there is any need for a compensation mechanism for organic farms affected by gene flow (See Agri-Pulse 9-7-11, 12-7-11 and 3-7-12).

The March 28 letter to Vilsack from NOSB Chair Barry Flamm makes no reference to the biotech advisory panel, but wades directly into the debate, saying that the board, “speaking for the organic community, believes the USDA’s actions on genetically engineered crops have been insufficient to protect the organic industry.” He adds that unsolicited public comments at NOSB meetings over the last decade “have illustrated the extreme concern about the impact that continued deregulation of new genetically engineered crops has had on our community.” The cost to organic producers and handlers to prevent contamination is significant, he says.

“Organic farmers must no longer be held solely responsible to prevent contamination from practices outside their control,” Flamm wrote. “We feel the developers of the GMO technology should share the burden that organic farmers now assume in mitigating the gene flow between farms and should compensate organic farmers for genetic drift.” He hopes to assure that “the responsibility to prevent GMO contamination of organics is shared by those who develop, use, and regulate this technology.”

Flamm suggests that the NOSB will continue to press the point. Its ad hoc committee “will examine all the areas where GMO contamination poses a threat to organics” and suggest ways to monitor compliance, he says.


Original story printed in April 18th, 2012 Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

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