Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter has released a statement in opposition to the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, also called AC21. The purpose of the committee was to design a compensation mechanism for farmers who are economically harmed by contamination from genetically engineered (GE) crops or genetically modified (GMO) organisms. Farmers would have to buy an insurance policy to be compensated.
She says, “it is outrageous that those being most harmed by GE contamination are the ones that would be responsible for paying into an insurance program outlined in the report. The liable party for contamination should be the patent holder of the gene technology, not the farmer who grows its seed. The companies that profit from the technology should develop a fun from which contaminated farmers can be compensated.. Yet during the committee’s meetings, there was virtually no discussion about the idea of a patent-holder funded compensation fund.”
Food Poisoning Bulletin has been covering the story of GE and GMO crops and animals for months. Environmental groups have been concerned about the possibility of these modified foods “outcrossing”, which means the modified genes moving into wild species. The American Medical Association, while opposing labeling of GE foods, states that there should be long-term studies on the possible health effects of these products. No epidemiological studies about the effects of these foods have been conducted.
Ms. Hauter continues, “aside from the fact that organic and non-GE growers should not be responsible for their harm from GE contamination, there are growing concerns that a crop insurance mechanism is not feasible for organic growers. Often, organic growers are reimbursed for losses at conventional prices, instead of receiving the premium associated with their specialized production, and others do not even have access to crop insurance because there is less risk data associated with these crops.
“The AC21 committee’s final recommendations will simply perpetuate the status quo, allowing GE gene flow to continue and farmers harmed by contamination to continue to pay for economic losses suffered from a technology they do not want or use. Instead of favoring the biotech industry, a more equitable solution for the growing problem of genetic contamination would be for the USDA to enact a moratorium on GE crop approvals until the agency develops a stronger stance on preventing contamination.