cudspan's picture
If I am an organic farmer, and GMO technology contaminates my crops, do I have any recourse? How do I regain my organic certification? What do I do with my contaminated crops? Who is held responsible, and what damages can I claim?

A:Expert Answer

I am an organic farmer and have been since 1993. I am also a conventional farmer and have been growing biotech crops since 1998. No organic farmer has ever lost his certification due to inadvertent GMO presence in his crop. The federal National Organic Program (NOP) has stated that as long as the organic grower did not intentionally use “excluded methods”―e.g., GM seed is an excluded method in organic production―a grower will not lose his organic certification. So, unless an organic grower intentionally plants a crop with GM traits, the certification of his organic land and crops will not be affected.


If GM traits are found in the organic farmer’s crop, it is usually up to the buyer of the crop to accept or reject his product based on their contract specifications, which do allow for a certain percentage of GM traits to be present. Organic certification does not equal zero presence of a GM trait; low-level presence of a GM trait in organic production is allowed as long as the grower has followed the organic process necessary for organic production.


There are many ways in which a GM trait can appear in an organic crop, other than pollen drift from a nearby neighbor. The planting seed may have been mixed with biotech-trait seed; the planter, harvesting equipment, trucks or storage facility may not have been cleaned properly. Pollen from a neighbor is only one of many things that can affect an organic grower. Organic crops with GMO presence can and are sold as organic; the USDA organic certification does not have a zero policy.


There are different buyers with different contract specifications available to a grower. If, for some reason, the organic crop cannot be sold as organic, it can be sold into the conventional market.


As an organic grower, I communicate with my neighbors and use different planting dates or separation to avoid pollination from any surrounding crops, whether from my own biotech crops or those of my neighbors. We choose to grow different crops with different cropping systems—organic, conventional and biotech―all on the same farm and without issues of pollen flow from one to the other.


rickspalding's picture

You don't lose your certification. Yet, even though Monsanto is being irresponsible. They say it is up to the organic farmer to protect themselves. On economies of scale that is flat out ridiculous. Pollen can travel 500 miles. You must remember this is a statist run country. Your recourse would be suing Monsanto but don't expect anything to change, the judiciary is a joke. Organic farmers had a valid case to preemptively protect themselves against BIOTECH. OSGATA vs MONsanto et al. THe case was thrown out by the judge. It doesn't make any sense. If you got billions to lobby you will get what you want. This is corporate fascism, the checks and balances in this country are going down the tubes. Apparently the only thing worth doing is worth doing for money.

cudspan's picture

Well, I guess the add-on to the question would be, how does the GMO industry justify regulations that don't hold them responsible for contaminating my crops? What's their reasoning for this? And if they can't explicitly justify regulations that unfairly protect them from damage liability, are they actively trying to change those regulations so they WILL assume responsibility?

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