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Protecting Organic Agriculture: How to Prevent and Manage GMO Contamination Risks

September 26, 2012

The use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) is forbidden by all organic standards across the world. Nevertheless  GE crops are developing and spreading in many countries. Canada is one of the main GE crops producers, along with US, Brazil, Argentina,  China and India.

As the bees fly, the wind blows, the water flows and the seeds germinate and cross-pollinate, organic crops can potentially be contaminated by GMOs. In fact, the report from an Organic Value Chain Roundtable initiated study,  named Challenges and approaches in mitigating risks associated with the adventitious presence of GM products in organic crop production in Canada, describes how cash crops such as corn, soya, wheat, canola and alfalfa are naturally “exchanging”  genes (cross-pollination) , and how gene flow can affect the integrity of organic crops grown in the neighbourhood of GE crops.

In Canada, organic growers carry the entire  burden of segregating and protecting their crop from GMO contamination. If their crops become contaminated, they alone bear the economical impact of the loss of the organic certification. This study explores solutions and suggests recommendations to protect the integrity of organic crops and compensate for economic losses due to unintended contamination. An industry-led  task force is proposing to support the three  following recommendations

  •  The government should implement compulsory best practices for GMO users, which would place the responsibility on them for preventing GMO contamination.  Agricultural practices would  include establishing adequate buffer-zones around the GMO crops to protect surrounding areas.
  •  Modernizing the GMO government approval process to include meaningful environmental risk assessments, consideration of economic impact of cross presence of GMO on non users, and implement the overdue courtesy to Canadian consumers of mandatory labelling of foods containing GMO.
  • Government should manage a fund financed by the biotech industry which would compensate organic producers for damages associated with contamination, such as the loss of organic markets or costs of product rejection.

Do do you agree with those recommendations?

Do you have GMO contamination issues or concerns on your own operation?

What would help you prevent and mitigate GMO contamination?

Please let us know if you what you think. Thanks!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. September 28, 2012 2:13 pm

    I agree with the three GMO recommendations. I have grave concerns about goverment issued approvals for genetic modifications related to seed or plant tolerance to toxic herbicides and pesticides (rather than improved yield or drought tolerance as a more earth-friendly possibility, if any are to be approved at all). What right-thinking person would encourage more and more toxins to be spread on the Earth? How can that be considered benefitial to the Earth’s population(s)?

  2. October 25, 2012 4:02 pm

    1) Best practice for GMO’s is to ban them until such time as they can be proven safe for human use and environmental containment. Which are both unlikely outcomes.
    2) mandatory labeling -YES. With a skull and crossbones if possible.
    3) That will have to be a big fund. Is that in the realm of the possible? What are other countries doing about this?

  3. Arthur R Graham permalink
    November 20, 2012 9:44 am

    The responsibility for cross contamination should lie with the user and guidelines should be provided by the marketer/owner of the technology including licensees. Insurance is available to producers and anyone using the technology should be made to carry such a specific liability insurance. An insurance fund would be a good thing except it requires an administration which is usually the most costly part, so let the insurance industry be the fund. Rates will be dictated by claims.

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