March 5, 2014
Yesterday, NSAC submitted comments to USDA in response to a request for information about how farmers who raise genetically engineered (GE) crops and those who don’t can better coexist as neighbors. NSAC’s was one of the over 4,000 comments that were submitted on the topic by yesterday’s deadline.
The challenges associated with coexistence have significant economic, environmental, and social implications for agricultural and rural communities across the nation. Many farmers serve markets that demand GE-free products, including organic and other identity-preserved markets. These farmers can sustain substantial economic losses if their product is contaminated with GE material. There are also concerns over the ecological, agronomic, and health consequences that GE pollen, pesticides, and herbicides can have on neighboring farms.
The notice stated that USDA was seeking recommendations on ways to “foster communication and collaboration among those involved in diverse agricultural production systems in order to further agricultural coexistence.” USDA posed a number of questions under four main categories to this end, which NSAC member groups unanimously agreed did not get to the heart of the issue. Therefore, while NSAC’s comments do address each question, the majority of the recommendations emphasize the need for a holistic framework that involves several factors absent from the questions.
In particular, NSAC’s recommendations underscore the need for sound, science-based information that can inform farmers and allow them to make good decisions regarding their production systems and stewardship practices; measures to preemptively avoid contamination of organic and other non-GE farm products with GE material; a system of compensation when contamination occurs; and mechanisms for responding to problems associated with the drift of agricultural chemicals related to GE crops onto neighboring farms.