Dec 19, 2012


Report on Coexistence of GMO's and Organic
 Sharply Criticized

In mid-November, the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) released its recommendations regarding transgenic contamination of organic and non-genetically engineered crops. The Committee was charged by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack with developing practical recommendations strengthening coexistence among different agricultural production methods.

   The National Organic Coalition, a national alliance of organizations representing organic farmers, environmentalists and organic industry, sharply condemned the recommendations.   Of particular concern in the report is the recommendation that organic and non-GE conventional farmers pay for crop insurance or self-insure themselves against unwanted GE contamination.

    NOC strongly asserts that this proposal allows USDA and the agricultural biotechnology industry to abdicate responsibility for preventing GE contamination while making the victim of GE pollution pay for damages resulting from transgenic contamination. “The AC21 report takes responsibility for GE contamination prevention out of the hands of USDA and the biotech industry where it belongs and puts it squarely on the backs of organic and non-GE farmers,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety and a NOC member. “This ill-conceived solution of penalizing the victim is fundamentally unjust and fails to address the root cause of the problem – transgenic contamination.” 

   The underlying assumption of USDA’s work plan for the committee was that as long as farmers are adequately compensated, GE contamination is a permissible and acceptable cost of doing business for organic and non-GE farmers. NOC has rejected this assumption, as did several members of the AC21. According to NOC,  the committee’s final report failed to make a single recommendation holding the patent holders of genetic engineering technologies responsible and liable for damages caused by its use.

   The report can be viewed 

"Plowed Under" Report Documents Loss of Habitat and Grassland

      Between 2008 and 2011, more than 23 million acres of grassland, shrub-land and wetlands were plowed under in order to plant commodity crops, according to a recently released report by the Environmental Working Group and Defenders of Wildlife.  The plow down is in response to high crop prices and unlimited crop insurance, according to EWG, and  signals a need for public policy such as payment limits on crop insurance  premiums and requiring conservation practices.

   The analysis uses U.S. Department of Agriculture satellite data to produce the most accurate estimate currently available of the rate of habitat conversion in the farm belt. It shows that more than 8.4 million acres were converted to plant corn, more than 5.6 million to raise soybeans and nearly 5.2 million to grow winter wheat. Most of the destroyed habitat was in states in the Great Plains and Upper Midwest.

   The report contains maps showing grassland, shrub land and wetlands converted to crops  including counties in Kansas. To view the report go to:

NRCS Launches Soil Health Initiative

In October, USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) launched a national initiative to highlight the benefits of healthy soils.  “By focusing more attention on soil health and by educating our customers and the public about the positive impact healthy soils can have on productivity and conservation, we can help our Nation’s farmers and ranchers feed the world more profitably and sustainably – now and for generations to come” states the website.

   At the initiative’s launch in Ohio, NRCS Chief Dave White explained that there are four keys to “unlock the secrets of the soil.” First, you want to increase the diversity above the ground to increase the life diversity below the ground,” said White. “You want to keep the soil covered as much as possible, you want to have a living root in the soil and you really want to optimize the inputs you put in.”

    For more information visit the NRCS website at  
or talk to your local conservation district. 

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