Comments on Agricultural Coexistence

PITTSBURGH - Feb. 26, 2014 - PRLog -- Through March 4, 2014 at 11:59 PM, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is accepting comments on coexistence recommendations for genetically modified crops (GMOs) and conventional or organic crops developed by its Advisory Committee on Biotechnology for 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) and a Pittsburgh business is making sure their voice is heard.

East End Food Co-op, the city’s only member-owned natural and organic foods store, has submitted their official comment coming out against many of the recommendations, including a recommendation for farmers growing non-GMO and/or organic crops to purchase crop insurance to cover their financial losses in instances of cross-contamination, which occurs when genetically engineered crops are found in fields beyond where they were planted.

“Right now there’s already a burden placed on organic growers operating in close proximity to fields containing GMOs,” explains East End Food Co-op’s Marketing & Member Services Manager, Heather Hackett. “They often lose acres of their land by leaving it empty to provide a buffer between the genetically engineered crops on their neighbor’s farm and the natural crops on their own. This is to avoid drift, or cross-contamination, which would result in GMOs unintentionally growing on their land.”

“These farmers already pay extra fees for organic certifications and testing. In the instance their field does become contaminated they will take a financial hit at the market where they can no longer fetch organic prices, not to mention the duration of time they would spend clearing out the contamination and being tested to restore their certification. It simply does not make sense to tell these farmers it’s their responsibility to pay an additional operational cost for insurance to compensate them in instances when contamination does occur when clearly it was never their doing, and certainly not their intention or hope.”

The East End Food Co-op supports the arguments of the National Organic Coalition and Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA) that while the USDA is exploring these coexistence strategies, which greatly favor GMO growers and patent-holders over non-GMO/organic growers, they’re overlooking the most important question: how do we prevent GMO contamination? This question has become all the more relevant since this summer’s contamination incident in Oregon, when genetically modified wheat not approved for growth or sale made its way into a conventional farmer’s crop from a Monsanto test field. As a result, other countries refused to purchase our grains. The issue is larger than just individuals having a right to choose whether they want to eat these foods or not, it could someday literally become a matter of whether the rest of the world will remain willing to import our crops and products if cross-contamination runs rampant.

East End Food Co-op endorses the recommendations made by The National Organic Coalition in response to the USDA’s questions seeking comment on how they can best foster communication and collaboration among those involved in diverse agricultural systems on the topic of coexistence as well as how USDA can best communicate and collaborate with those entities, including:

USDA-developed mandatory rules to prevent GMO contamination, because the voluntary solutions arising in their absence have proven insufficient.
Full transparency throughout the supply chain is a must, which requires a standard labeling system for genetically engineered foods.
Though we’d support a ban of all GMOs in our country, in particular, crops prone to drift and cross-pollination should not be approved for GMO production, including alfalfa, sugar beets, canola, and corn.
More research should be conducted to ensure a non-GMO seed supply remains in case of the event of widespread contamination.
More research should also be performed to closely study the impacts of GE products, and to monitor the contamination levels in the seed supply.
Crop insurance should not be treated as a compensation mechanism in instances of contamination.
The ability for farmers to continue planting GMOs should not ever preclude the growing or non-GMO/organic crops.

Anyone interested in sharing their thoughts on this topic with the USDA may submit a comment online at (search for: APHIS-2013-0047-0061). Comments can also be mailed to: Docket No. APHIS-2013-0047-0061, Regulatory Analysis, and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station, 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238.

East End Food Co-op has been serving the community since 1980 and is owned by over 10,000 members. Best known for the Bulk Foods and Produce Departments, the Co-op specializes in a variety of organic and local products. The store also features a vegetarian Café, which serves fresh soups, hot entrees, deli salads, and sandwiches that are all made in-house daily.

Heather Hackett
412-242-3598 extension 103
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Tags:Usda, Gmo, Agriculatural Coexistence, Organic
Industry:Agriculture, Environment
Location:Pittsburgh - Pennsylvania - United States
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