USDA panel gets altered-crops pay plan.
California voters this fall will decide a ballot measure that would
require labeling of foods containing genetically engineered material.
But the Department of Agriculture is already tied in knots over how to
deal with the contamination of organic and conventional foods by biotech
On Monday, a USDA advisory panel will consider a draft plan to
compensate farmers whose crops have been contaminated by pollen, seeds
or other stray genetically engineered material. The meeting is expected
to be contentious, pitting the biotechnology and organic industries
against each other.
The draft report acknowledged the difficulty of preventing such material
from accidentally entering the food supply and concerns that the purity
of traditional seeds may be threatened.
It also cited fears on both sides that official action to address
contamination could send a signal to U.S. consumers and export markets
in Europe, Japan and elsewhere that the purity and even safety of U.S.
crops are suspect....
USDA's organic certification does not permit bioengineered material
unless trace amounts show up despite a farmer's best efforts to avoid
it. Many food companies do their own testing and have rejected
The biotech industry, which includes Monsanto, DuPont and other seed
companies, argued that contamination is minimal. Organic growers, they
said, get a premium for their crops and should "assume the economic
risks associated" with certifying that their crops meet organic standards.
The organic industry said biotech companies should be responsible for
containing their own genes and that contamination threatens the right of
farmers to choose how to farm....