We write in response to your request for information on the topic of “enhancing agricultural coexistence.”
This inquiry is a shameless charade designed to mask the truth that as long as genetically engineered crops remain untested, unregulated and unlabeled, we face “the potential elimination of a farmer’s choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer’s choice to eat non-genetically engineered food.”
You’ll recognize the quote from a case that bears your name, Center for Food Safety v. Vilsack, where Judge Jeffrey S. White ruled that your approval of genetically engineered sugar beets was illegal.
Even before becoming USDA Secretary, you were familiar with the contamination problem inherent in genetically engineered crops. And you were hostile to any suggestion that the government take meaningful action to prevent it.
In 2002, a corn crop engineered by ProdiGene to produce a vaccine for pigs contaminated 500,000 bushels of soybeans, grown the following season in the same field. This after a previous incident in Iowa, where the USDA ordered ProdiGene to pay for the burning of 155 acres of conventional corn presumed contaminated by ProdiGene plants. ProdiGene eventually went out of business. But not before it received a $6 million investment from the Governors Biotechnology Partnership, which you chaired.
In reaction to suggestions that pharma crops should be kept away from food crops, you countered that "we should not overreact and hamstring this industry."
One of the best ways for farmers to protect themselves from genetic contamination is to pass local laws that establish zones safeguarding the region’s economic interests. Many farmers, not just organic and non-GMO farmers, have an interest in protecting themselves from unwanted genetic contamination. Farmers that grow GMO crops for food don’t want to be contaminated with GMO crops grown for feed, fuel or pharma. Farmers growing approved GMO varieties don’t want to be contaminated with unapproved varieties. Farmers growing for the export market don’t want to be contaminated with GMOs that aren’t accepted by our trading partners.
Unfortunately, we already know that you oppose local action to prevent genetic contamination. In 2005, as governor you initiated and then signed into law House File 642, which took away local communities’ rights to act on this issue.
It clearly doesn’t bother you if farmers’ right to choose to grow non-genetically engineered crops is taken away.
You also aren’t interested in in protecting consumers’ right to choose to eat non-genetically engineered food. This is demonstrated by the fact that you have approved several new genetically engineered foods. And you have required labels on none.
We disagree with your disingenuous insistence that genetically engineered crops can coexist with the crops that they will contaminate and destroy.
Please take a fresh look at the only two options that can truly protect farmers’ and consumers’ right to choose: local control over genetically engineered crops and labels on genetically engineered foods.
Organic Consumers Association
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to know what you think. The agency is seeking public comments on what it can do to "promote the broad adoption of local, voluntary solutions aimed at facilitating coexistence" between genetically modified crops and organic/non-GMO crops.
We've got an easy answer for them and we've said it all before: Voluntary solutions? No! Coexistence with Monsanto? Hell no!
It should be a crime for seed companies like Monsanto to release genetically engineered crops into the environment, knowing that they will inevitably contaminate organic/non-GMO crops. Prevention of contamination should be the seed companies' responsibility. And it should be mandatory. There are no "voluntary solutions" to the fact that genetically engineered crops will eventually destroy organic/non-GMO crops.
But there are two mandatory rules that work very well to prevent genetic contamination: GMO labels and GMO-free zones.
More than 60 countries have mandatory GMO labels that let consumers opt out of Monsanto's involuntary human feeding trials. More than 40 countries, (including the U.S.) have regions, some countrywide and some local, that are GMO-free zones that let farmers protect themselves from contamination.
The USDA needs to tell the truth. There is no such thing as "coexistence." As long as GMOs aren't safety-tested, aren't regulated and aren't labeled, we face, in the words of a federal judge's warning to the USDA, the "potential elimination of a farmer's choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer's choice to eat non-genetically engineered food."