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Genetic Engineering: Where Do We Stand?

February 3, 2014 - We live in a disjointed world.  To wit: I read, probably 10 days ago, that Monsanto isn't introducing any new GE seeds this year.  Meanwhile, GE superweeds have overrun American farms, with 50 percent of American farmers reporting Roundup-resistant weed infestations.  Then there's the USDA, which has extended its public comment period on its Advisory Community's recommendations vis-a-vis better relations between conventional and organic farmers (kind of reminds me of that song from the musical Oklahoma!: "Oh, the farmer and the cowman should be friends ...").  Are we turning a corner, where GE seeds are concerned?  Read on, and ponder.

First, there's the issue of GE labeling.   Oh sure, Monsanto has defeated GE labeling bills in California and Washington, but labeling bills just keep "cropping up," nonetheless.  In fact, last year over half the states introduced GE labeling legislation.  On top of that, U.S. wheat exports to Japan were temporarily halted last year because of GE contamination of wheat grown in Oregon.  The contamination was the result of field trials conducted almost a decade ago, trials that did not result in a commercially viable product.  They have gone on to demonstrate, however, the persistence of GE contamination in nature.

Given this persistence, it is unlikely that transgenic contamination will quickly become a thing of the past, even if Monsanto does stop developing GE seed.  The problems of GE superweeds and transgenic contamination remain to be solved.  Though farmers have sued Monsanto and lost - thank you, Justice Thomas - the organic foods and farming community continues to grow bigger and stronger.  During the original public comment period on the USDA's recommendations on "Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture," the National Organic Coalition, the Center for Food Safety, and Food and Water Watch all made note of the threat posed by GE seed to non-GE farms and farmers.

"Like other types of pollution, transgenic contamination cannot be recalled," stated the Center for Food Safety. "GE plants also continue to reproduce in farm fields where GE seeds are sown or blown and where plants are pollinated.  Their traits as passed on to subsequent generations of crops.  They also reproduce in nature where GE varieties can forever alter wild relatives, native plants, and ecosystems."

Should you care to read the USDA's recommendations, visit http://www.oeffa.org/q/coexist.  Comments may be submitted by mail to Docket No. APHIS-2013-0047, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Rd., Unit 118, Riverdale, MD  20737-1238.
For more information, contact Meghan Klingel at 301-851-4055, or meghan.k.klingel@aphis.usda.gov.



With thanks to OEFFA News, Winter 2014.

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