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Organic Versus Genetically Engineered Crops: Some Rays of Light

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no-gmo-foodsRecent court decisions may help. Plus, new research shows how dangerous Monsanto’s GMOs really are.

Natural organic crops need to be protected from potential contamination by synthetic, genetically engineered seeds—especially in the face of less government oversight of GMOs. Natural seeds face the same Catch-22 as supplements: they cannot be patented, whereas synthetic seeds (and drugs) can be—and are therefore huge profit centers for Big Agro and Big Pharma, not to mention the government agencies in bed with them. They also need protection from the increased use of pesticides used on GE crops, which are also carried by the winds.

Our colleagues at ANH International reported recently that two court cases in the US might be turning the tide in favor of organic farmers over GE crops:

  • Last December, the California Court of Appeal found the Western Farm Service guilty of “negligence, trespass, and nuisance” against Jacobs Organic Farm and the Del Cabo Organic Cooperative. In 2006 Western Farm applied GE organophosphate (OP) pesticides to Brussels sprouts grown on land neighboring the organic farms. Winds carried these pesticides onto the organic produce and contaminated it—making it unsalable as organic. Even though Western Farm claimed to have taken precautions to avoid pesticide drift, it still happened—and fortunately the court found them guilty.
  • Last month, after ten years of futile complaints to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the Minnesota Court of Appeals found the Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Company guilty of negligence, trespass, and nuisance on Oluf and Debra Johnson’s organic farm. Once again the pesticides sprayed on the oil company’s farms spread to the Johnsons’ land.

One of the big problems with GE crops is that they are responsible for the greatly increased use of pesticides which can easily contaminate organic crops. Now organic farms have legal precedents to sue conventional farms (and those using GMOs) for pesticide contamination.

Assuming EPA continues to approve more and more synthetic herbicides, these precedents will be an important tool in our arsenal. EPA recently approved a new herbicide called Imprelis. It’s billed as “environmentally friendly” but it is the leading suspect in the death of thousands trees all across the country.

Speaking of environmentally unfriendly GMOs, NPR reported this week that a type of genetically modified corn from Monsanto, which was developed to be impervious to a specific type of worm, may actually be causing the bugs to adapt and turn into “superbugs,” making the corn vulnerable to the very worms it was engineered to resist. Researchers at Iowa State University found that farmers who grew the Monsanto corn three years in a row got infested with “super” corn rootworms—and the damage they do could begin to reduce corn yields and raise corn prices.

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