The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is taking comments on “agricultural coexistence” between GMO and non-GMO crops. Below is the comment I submitted. You can submit a comment at http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=APHIS-2013-0047-0061 or an anonymous comment here (for example if you’ve experienced contamination and don’t want Monsanto to know who you are). You can also read the list of questions (pdf) the USDA is asking and see what the Organic Seed Alliance has to say about this opportunity. Comments are due March 4th.
Thank you for listening to what we have to say about GMO contamination. This is an enormously important issue for many non-GMO farmers and especially non-GMO seed growers and seed companies.
We at Southern Exposure Seed Exchange grow, buy, and sell untreated seeds. Most of what we sell is organic. We know that the vast majority of our customers want non-GMO seeds, and that many would pay extra for seed that they know has not been contaminated by GMO genes. As a company, we would even be willing to give up some profit – and probably a lot of profit – if it meant we could reliably keep our seeds from being contaminated.
But really, if a patented product invades our seed stock, we shouldn’t be the ones paying the price. Patent holders should have to.
We treasure the heirloom varieties that we carry. So do many of our customers. But if we find out that our seed stock is contaminated with GMOs, we will not use that seed stock, even if it means we have to discard entire seed crops – and even if it means we have to stop carrying that variety.
With corn, this is a very significant risk, and the isolation distances necessary to prevent contamination are very large. Many corn varieties are rare. Healthy, non-contaminated seed stocks could become hard to find.
If farmers are encouraged to communicate more in order prevent contamination, that will be a small step forward. If GMO farmers were required to disclose to neighbors what they are growing, when, and where, that would be a larger step forward. If patent holders were required to compensate non-GMO farmers when contamination results in an economic loss, we might call that a solution of sorts.