GMOs Infecting Organic Crops, Will USDA Do Anything?

It’s not surprising that as GMO crops become pervasive in the US, there’s a good chance they will contaminate organic crops, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

Organic farmers are finding it increasingly difficult to protect their crops from contamination and they want the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to do something about it. 

Five out of six farmers are concerned about GMO contamination and over 30% say GMOs have been detected or suspected, according to a survey in 17 states by Food & Water Watch and the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM).

Fending off GMO contamination adds a new cost for organic farmers.  "The risks and the effects of GMO contamination have unfairly burdened organic and non-GMO farmers with extra work, longer hours and financial insecurity," the report says.

GMO Crop

If an organic product is tinged with GMOs, it can be rejected by domestic and foreign buyers. That means organic farmers now have to submit their crops for GMO testing (a new industry!) – a new expense.

Meanwhile, GMO growers are not specifically required to mitigate the risk of contamination.

Even worse, the USDA doesn’t keep track of GMO contamination complaints so they don’t have the data they need to support changes in policy.

With the release of this survey, "USDA can no longer claim ignorance about this problem," says Food & Water Watch.

Food & Water Watch wants USDA to start collecting data on contamination and resulting economic losses, and they want buffer zones between GMO-free and GMO crops – as was initially intended. If GMOs spread to an organic farm, biotech companies should be held responsible.

"The Department must recognize the harm that is already being done to organic and non-GMO farmers and put the responsibility squarely where it belongs – with the biotech companies." 

Testbiotech published the first global overview that shows how GMO crops such as maize, rice, cotton, oilseed rape, bentgrass and poplar trees are spreading uncontrollably in countries across the world. In some regions, the transgenes have already moved into populations of wild relatives.

Genetic Engineers Cite Dangers

In the report "GMO Myths and Truths", two genetic engineers evaluated what’s become a large body of peer-reviewed scientific research on the health impacts of GMOs.  

They summarize what the research shows:  

Although proponents of GMO crops claim they are safe to eat, environmentally beneficial, increase yields, reduce
reliance on pesticides, and can help solve world hunger, research shows otherwise, says co-author Dr. Michael Antoniou at King’s College London School of Medicine in the UK.

"Research studies show that genetically modified crops have harmful effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials and on the environment during cultivation. They have increased the use of pesticides and have failed to increase yields. Our report concludes that there are safer and more effective alternatives to
meeting the world’s food needs." 

Another author, Dr. John Fagan, is a former genetic engineer who returned $614,000 in grant funding to the National Institutes of Health. He was concerned about the safety and ethics of GMOs and subsequently founded a GMO testing company.  

"Crop genetic engineering as practiced today is a crude,
imprecise, and outmoded technology. It can create unexpected toxins or allergens in foods and affect their nutritional value. Recent advances point to better ways of using our knowledge of genomics to improve food crops, that do not involve GMOs, says Fagan. 

"Over 75% of all GMO crops are engineered to tolerate being sprayed with herbicide. This has led to the spread of herbicide-resistant superweeds and has resulted in massively increased exposure of farmers and communities to these toxic chemicals. Epidemiological studies suggest a link between herbicide use
and birth defects and cancer, says Fagan.  

Other Findings:

  • GMO foods have not been properly tested in humans, but the few studies done give cause for concern.
  • The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t test the safety of GMO crops or require any testing. Instead, it  "deregulates" them based on assurances from biotech companies that they are "substantially equivalent" to non-GMO counterparts.
  • No long-term toxicological testing of GMOs on animals or  humans is required by any regulatory agency in the world.
  • Roundup, in over half GMO crops, is not safe or benign as is claimed. It causes birth defects, reproductive problems, DNA damage, and cancer in test animals. In humans, epidemiological studies find an association with miscarriage, birth defects, neurological development problems, DNA damage, and certain types of cancer.
  • A large number of studies indicate that Roundup is associated with increased crop diseases, especially infection with Fusarium, a fungus that causes wilt disease in soy and can have toxic effects on humans and livestock.

"These findings fundamentally challenge the utility and safety of GMO crops, but the biotech industry uses its influence to block research by independent scientists and uses its powerful PR machine to discredit independent scientists whose findings challenge this approach," says Fagan.

Read "GMO Myths and Truths, An evidence-based examination of the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically modified crops": 

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