Well, I recently helped to draft a statement for GMO-Free Eugene that will be read at an upcoming public hearing on deregulating GM sugar beets here in Oregon, and here it is. This comes amid the recent decision to work on a ballot initiative that bans GM crops from the open environment here in Oregon, which we’re all working on so very hard. I encourage everyone to stand up for your food rights and if you work against GM crops in your area, I’ll write an article about you and promote your actions here. Just because I love you so much. Below is the statement that will be presented on the 17th.
We reject the deregulation of GM sugar beets in the state of Oregon.
The Willamette Valley is recognized as a major center for seed production around the world, and is one of the most agriculturally productive areas in the country. GM crops threaten this distinction, as well as the livelihoods of those who work within our agriculture industry. Pollen from GM crops cannot be contained. As such, the farmers in our valley live in constant fear that their livelihoods will be stripped of them by genetic contamination. These farmers support themselves, their families, and the local community by producing non-transgenic seeds and crops for a diverse range of customers. If their products become contaminated, they lose those clients who will search elsewhere for the products these farmers were once freely able to provide. Since sugar beets are wind pollinated, and easily cross with vegetable relatives, the prospect of coexistence between GM crops and conventional crops is a total impossibility.
The pollen from beets has been shown to travel upwards of 12 miles. Given this, there is no realistic distance that can isolate these crops from conventional crops in the open environment. With the highly concentrated seed and vegetable production found in the Willamette Valley, this becomes even more unrealistic. Due to this, the current USDA requirement of a four mile isolation distance between transgenic and conventional beets is not only insufficient, but callow and irresponsible. The proposed deregulation is not only a direct threat to the livelihoods of Oregon’s farmers, but it spells the inevitable end of our illustrious and vibrant commercial and organic farming industry. After all, many of the countries that our state exports food crops to simply do not accept GM crops.
In addition to the issue of the threat to our food sovereignty, security, and safety through the reckless deregulation of GM crops are concerns raised by the excessive use of glyphosate that is associated with Roundup Ready beets.
According to the USDA’s own data, glyphosate usage has increased since the introduction of GM crops in the United States. This overuse of glyphosate not only degrades the quality of our soils (1), and threatens public health, (in the form of lymphoma and other health dangers) (2), but aids in the creation of the highly herbicide-resistant weeds that are becoming an agricultural epidemic here. These “super” weeds force farmers to either pull them by hand, or use toxic cocktails of multiple chemicals to eradicate them (3).
Deregulation, as well as partial deregulation, threatens our land and crops for absolutely no reasonable gain. GM crops have not only failed to reach the yields promised by biotechnology firms, but they can’t even produce as much food as conventional and organic farming methods (4). They are a step-back in agriculture, masked within the misleading rhetoric of the industry’s sales pitch of presupposed advancement, which is based upon no credible scientific data. They are a financial benefit to these corporations only, while the farmer (5), the environment (6) (7), the consumer, and all else suffer great loss. Every independent exploration of the purported benefits of these products has found them to be lacking in every way.
This technology is in the infant stages of development. Its safety has not been tested, once it is released it cannot be mitigated, it places a direct threat upon our preexisting agricultural infrastructure, and it presents not a single, independently verified gain for our economy or food security. In addition it has been shown in several peer viewed studies to be a danger to human and animal health (8)(9)(10).
It is time that the USDA join the many other concerned countries of the world in taking responsible and legally accountable action and apply the precautionary principle to GM products in the United States.
9 Stanley Ewen and Arpad Pusztai, Effect of diets containing genetically modified potatoes expressing Galanthus nivalis lectin on rat small intestine, Lancet, vol. 354, issue 9187, pp.1353-4, Oct. 16, 1999
10 Velimirov A, Binter C, Zentek J, Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice, Report – Austrian Federal Ministry of Health, Family and Youth, pp.73-78, Nov. 11, 2008
Filed under: Things to Consider