Organic crop certifiers decry transgenic contamination
(May 1, 2001 -- Cropchoice news) --
That was the gist of declarations by two organic agriculture organizations
to describe the effect of transgenic crop production on organic farming.
As is the case with conventional soy, corn, and canola, organic crops
have tested positive for the presence of foreign genetic material because
of cross-pollination, seed stock contamination. The inability to segregate
transgenic crops from their organic and conventional counterparts during
harvest, handling, transport and milling is also responsible for contamination.
The Organic Federation of Australia declared that contamination from transgenic
crops in the United States has spread to such a degree that it cannot
verify the purity of imported organic ingredients.
Farm Verified Organic seconded that assertion. A press release from the
North Dakota certification agency stated: "the GM pollution of American
commodities is now so pervasive, we believe it is not possible for farmers
in North America to source seed free from it."
"The widespread adoption of GM crops in the U.S. makes it difficult
to ensure that grain is not being contaminated with genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) as it is handled and transported from the field to the
end customer. Industry insiders even question whether the foundation (parent)
seed for non-GM varieties can meet a 1% purity level," according
to the November 2000 edition of Farmindustrynews.com.
David Gould, a member of the certification committee of Farm Verified
Organic, discussed the contamination situation with Cropchoice in February.
"Our investigations thus far from the 2000 harvest lead us to believe
that virtually all of the seed corn in the United states is contaminated
with at least a trace of genetically engineered material, and often more,"
Gould said. "Even the organic lots are showing traces of biotech
varieties." He pointed out the now familiar StarLink corn fiasco.
Iowa farmers planted 1 percent of their crop with StarLink. By harvest
time, 50 percent registered positive for the genetically engineered variety.
Since his preferred option of a ban on transgenic crops probably won't
happen soon, Gould favors establishment of a maximum tolerance level for
genetically modified organisms in organic crops. Currently, there is no
universal standard. In the case of corn, he said that if organic certifiers
insisted on 0 percent contamination, "we shouldn't certify any corn."
At the same time, he worries that propagating transgenic crops year after
year will lead to the presence of more and more foreign genes in organic
and conventional varieties. This in turn, would mean raising the tolerance
levels. Whether the organic stamp of approval would then become something
of a joke is open to debate.
But one should remember that organic standards have to do with production,
not purity, said Annie Kirschenmann, of Farm Verified Organic. This means
that testing for any kind of residue, be it from pesticide or genetic
drift, is not part of determining whether to certify a farm as organic.