The USDA recently convened a Stakeholder Workshop on Coexistence in Raleigh, NC. This invitation-only event was organized to address what happens when non-GMO crops are contaminated by GMO pollen. The meeting took place on March 12 and 13, 2015.
Stakeholders representing several sectors from across the nation discussed the topic and reflected on recommendations offered in the 2012 report from the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture: Enhancing Coexistence: A Report of the AC 21 to the Secretary of Agriculture.
We also want to reaffirm our commitment to the following principles that we believe should guide any action on coexistence between GMO and non-GMO crops:
PRINCIPLES TO DRIVE GMO CONTAMINATION PREVENTION STRATEGIES
- Consumer choice – Consumers have the right to choose non-GMO food.
- Consumer right to know – Consumers have the right to know where and how their food was grown.
- Farmers Entrepreneurial Choice – Farmers must have the right and opportunity to grow food, feed, fiber, livestock, and fish that serve important and lucrative domestic and foreign markets.
- Fairness –Personal and corporate responsibility must be upheld. If you own it and are profiting from it you are responsible for the costs associated with contamination prevention and any resultant damage from contamination.
- Liability –Testing for contamination, establishing buffers, reimbursement for lost sales, loss of organic product premiums, clean-up and removal are the costs of doing business that must be borne by the GMO patent holder.
- Precaution – The pre-market burden of proof of safety is on the patent holder. This includes comprehensive evaluation of health, socioeconomic, and environmental impacts of GM crops and technologies.
- Sustainability – Agricultural technologies and systems must be assessed for sustainability and those that facilitate further declines in family farming or erode the human and environmental foundations of American agriculture must not be allowed.
- Health, Environmental and Economic Evaluation –Technologies that pose environmental, economic, and health risks should be evaluated before commercialization and tough choices must be made about whether their overall societal benefits outweigh their costs. Parity – There must be a long-term commitment to supporting the vitality of diverse agricultural enterprises, including parity of public investment, infrastructure, marketing, technical assistance, research, and funding.
- Transparency – Ongoing documentation, tracking and labeling systems must be established to monitor the movement of GMOs in the environment, seed banks, non-GMO seed stocks, and food.
- Diversity – Society and agriculture will greatly benefit from the rapid reinvigoration of public cultivars and breeds to restore genetic diversity on farms, ensure greater farmer seeds/breeds choices, and to enhance national food security.
A period for submission of comments following the workshop. Please be sure to submit your comment as soon as possible.
As this conversation moves forward, we call on the USDA to help prevent GMO contamination and to keep the responsibility for cleaning up contamination in the hands of those who profited in the first place.