Heartland Institute Advisor Reacts to USDA Decision on Genetically Engineered Crop Complaints

August 30, 2012

The United States Department of Agriculture Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (AC21) this week agreed to a compensation process for farmers who can prove they suffered economic losses from the presence of genetically engineered organisms in their non-GE crops.

The panel recommended producers of GE crops try to contain the spread of their genes to organic crops, but will not hold the companies responsible for contamination.

The following statements from Mischa Popoff, an agriculture expert and policy advisor at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution. For more comments, refer to the contact information below. To book Mr. Popoff on your program, please contact Tammy Nash at tnash@heartland.org and 312/377-4000. After regular business hours, contact Jim Lakely at jlakely@heartland.org and 312/731-9364.

“The overwhelming majority of organic farmers are honest and hard-working. So you shouldn’t be surprised if we tell you they don’t actually care if their neighbors use genetically-modified seed. That’s right; it’s the urban leaders of the organic movement who are stoking irrational fear, not the farmers.

“Organic farmers know full well that biotechnology does not threaten their ability to farm their land organically. The question is: Why don’t the politicians and bureaucrats know this?

“The USDA advisory panel, AC21 (the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology), began its meetings in Washington this week. Sadly, the main goal of this panel will be to consider a draft plan to compensate farmers whose crops have been ‘contaminated’ by ‘stray’ genetically engineered material. Funny that the urban organic activists never raise the issue of illicit synthetic-fertilizer use in their multibillion-dollar industry. This occurs routinely over in countries like China where paperwork is all that’s required to gain lucrative USDA certification under America’s National Organic Program, thus garnering access to the world’s single biggest market for organic food.

“The fact is that organic activists simply don’t care that the complete lack of field testing allows this type of fraud to go unchecked. Instead, they focus like a laser on genetic engineering, a completely legitimate form of science that they want banned. As such, the AC21 meetings are not likely to provide any resolution in the ongoing organic versus biotech debate. In fact, the activists don’t want this debate to ever end. It is their cause célèbre; a highly effective means by which to raise money, pretending organic farmers will be hurt, even though none ever have been and none ever will.

“As a Policy Advisor for The Heartland Institute with an organic farming background, and as someone who worked for five years as a USDA organic farm and process inspector, I propose that it’s time to circle the wagons and protect the perfectly valid science of genetic engineering. I’m offering my assistance by way of background consultation, or sworn testimony, on my knowledge of how the leadership of the organic movement operates. I’ve provided expert testimony against these elitist activists before and I’ll gladly provide it again. Please give consideration to what you might do at this crucial juncture to protect the most efficient food-production system the world has ever known.

“It’s time to speak up.”

The Heartland Institute is a 28-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.