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Organic farms contaminated by transgenic organisms

(Sunday, May 18, 2003 -- CropChoice news) --

ENS: SANTA CRUZ, California, May 15, 2003 (ENS) - Certified organic farmers have reported the first direct financial and operational impacts associated with the threat of contamination by genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in a nationwide survey conducted by the Organic Farming Research Foundation (OFRF). One-third of the survey respondents rated the risk of exposure and possible contamination of their organic farm products by GMOs as high or very high.

National standards for organic products, implemented by the U.S. Deptartment of Agriculture last year, exclude recombinant DNA technologies from use in organic farming. There are also a variety of strict tolerances for GMO contamination imposed on organic growers by foreign and domestic buyers.

"In 1998, when OFRF conducted our previous survey, GMO contamination was not yet a national issue," said OFRF executive director Bob Scowcroft. "These new survey results based on the 2001 crop year document that significant impacts have begun to occur within a very short time frame. If this trend continues, what we're seeing now will prove to be just the tip of the iceberg."

According to OFRF president Ron Rosmann, a diversified organic farmer from Harlan, Iowa, "This new data supports OFRF's call for a moratorium on the release of GMOs until there is a solid regulatory framework that prevents genetic pollution and assigns liability for the damages imposed by GMO contamination."

The OFRF survey found that 17 percent of survey respondents have had GMO testing conducted on some portion of their organic farm seed, inputs or farm products. Eleven percent of those who had GMO testing said that they received positive test results for GMO contamination.

Eight percent of respondents indicated that their organic farm operation has borne some direct costs or damages related to the presence of GMOs in agriculture.

They may have had to pay for testing seed, inputs, or organic farm products for GMO contamination. They may have lost organic sales or markets due to actual contamination or perceived contamination risk. They have lost sales due to the presence of GMOS in organic products, and several respondents have lost organic certification due to presence of GMOs in organic products.

Forty-eight percent of those surveyed said they have taken some measures to protect their organic farms from GMO contamination. The greatest percentage, 24 percent, indicated that they have communicated with neighboring farmers about GMO risks to their farm.

Others have increased the size of buffer zones to neighboring farms, discontinued use of certain inputs at risk for GMO contamination, adjusted timing of crop planting, altered cropping patterns or crops produced, or changed cropping locations.

Only 10 percent of survey respondents believe that a regulatory framework is in place to adequately protect their organic farm products from damages due to contamination from GMOs.

The OFRF survey results will be released this week at the Organic Trade Association's All Things Organic Conference and Trade Show in Austin, Texas. The complete results of OFRF's 4th National Organic Farmers' Survey: Sustaining Organic Farms in a Changing Organic Marketplace will be published in fall 2003.