The Center for Food Safety has issued a paper critical of the draft report prepared by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21), which was scheduled to meet August 27-28, 2012, to discuss the draft. According to the advocacy organization, USDA “has increasingly strayed from its role as ‘enhanc[er of] economic opportunities for US farmers and ranchers,’ by continuing to allow genetically engineered (GE) seeds, pollen, and plants to contaminate our nation’s farms without restraint.” In particular, the center calls AC21’s “co-existence” approach to organic, conventional and GE farming “a thinly veiled attempt to sanction allowable amounts of GE contamination in food by establishing a universal GE contamination threshold.”  

The paper contends that compensating conventional and organic farmers whose crops are contaminated by drifting GE pollen will not address the losses sustained when other countries ban all U.S. seed and crop imports. “Even if farmers strictly adhere to crop management protocols such as those required in the organic standards,” the center contends, “GE contaminated crops cannot be sold in countries that prohibit GE food.” According to the center, USDA’s “policy and practice of permitting the unrestricted use of GE technologies cuts off valuable export markets and facilitates the dominance of GE above all other forms of agriculture, particularly in the face of transgenic contamination.” The center calls on USDA to immediately establish a moratorium on the planting of GE crops and also notes its opposition to any compensation mechanism requiring “conventional non-GE growers to purchase insurance or pay into a fund to compensate themselves for unwanted GE contamination.”  

The paper cites the StarLink® corn and LibertyLink® rice contamination episodes as examples of costly incidents involving massive product recalls, import bans and federal lawsuits.