OSGATA Board Member Dissents from USDA’s Biotechnology Report and Recommendations

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The USDA  established their Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture (known as AC21) in February 2003, with its first meeting in June of that year. Under its Charter, AC21 is charged with examining the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the US food and agriculture system, as well as providing guidance to USDA on individual issues related to biotechnology in agriculture. Ac21 was recently revived by Agriculture Secretary Vilsack with this specific charge: ”to develop practical recommendations for strengthening coexistence among different agricultural production methods.”

The committee’s final report, entitled “Enhancing Coexistence: A Report to the Secretary of Agriculture,” was issued November 19, 2012.

Only one member of the AC21′s broad group of constituents, OSGATA board member and Treasurer Isaura Anduluz of Cuatro Puertos in New Mexico, refused to accept the ‘consensus’ report and instead filed a dissent. The decision to dissent is a remarkable act of courage. Below is her dissent  (p.57-58 of the final report).

Isaura Andaluz’s Dissent to AC21′s “Enhancing Coexistence”:

“These final comments are respectfully submitted after review of the year-long process.

The report fails to meet the Secretary’s charge. In my opinion, this stems from the process design. It set parameters that could only conclude with federal insurance as the mechanism, potential eligibility standards/tools could never be defined, and economic losses were limited only to lawsuits from deregulated genetically engineered material.

At the first meeting, a draft compensation mechanism (indemnification fund) was presented by another committee member, although I and maybe others were unaware of the Secretary’s charge prior to this meeting. This preemptively set the agenda for the committees’ report.

The report:

• Does not meet the Secretary’s charge nor encourages rural economic development for all agricultural sectors.

• Uses language — sometimes almost verbatim — from biotech technology use guides, other co-existence sessions, and published research. In some cases the language is from twenty years ago, showing that no progress has been made.

• Puts the onus on non-GE farmers to keep their seed and crops free of GE material.

• Fails to recognize on-going economic losses non-GE farmers are incurring trying to keep their product clean.

• Faults seed producers who are contaminated for “not having adequate protocols to prevent gene flow.” The GE manufacturer and biotech farmer assume no responsibility.

• Consistently gives precedence to biotech crops and farmers in the Recommendations listed by reinforcing that everything is subject to the “market place” or “growers’ demands.”

• Makes the US taxpayer assume costs for compensation, education and training that should be assumed by the GE manufacturer who owns the patent on the unintended GE presence.

• Makes no mentions of non-commodity and smaller farmers who provide food on a local basis that also face contamination issues from patented GE and non-GE hybrids.

• Fails to mention or incorporate public input from farmers and consumers who attended the meetings in Washington, DC or those who submitted comments.

Compensation Mechanism

In a presentation by USDA staff, I asked if any current USDA insurance programs covered a“man-made” incident. The answer was, “No.” Insurance is for the exception. The reason no compensation mechanism can be created is because the “unintended presence of genetically 59 engineered material” is patented. GE seeds are performing as designed and contain patented pollen; in nature movement of pollen occurs. All parts of GE plants – stalk, leaves, pollen, seed – are patented. Any farmer/ seed grower contaminated will not want to disclose the contamination because they are illegally in possession of a patented material and could be subject to legal action for theft of intellectual property. This was also discussed in one of the first documents we received “A Private/Public Potential Solutions….by Watts and Associates, 2011.”

The committee refused to ever recognize this fact. A few weeks ago, I was invited to a Coexistence Forum in New Mexico where I asked a Monsanto representative for a threshold level for adventitious presence, de minimus, etc. He responded that there is no such thing as adventitious presence, only “de minimus.” He refused to provide a number and referred me to court actions on “de minimus.”

The reports states that it is not realistic to guarantee zero presence of unintended genetics in seed. Three of the major GE manufacturers: Syngenta (Switzerland), BASF (Switzerland) and Bayer (Germany) are all foreign companies that do not allow planting of GE crops in their countries.

“Mack (CEO of Syngenta) said that he believed Switzerland was ‘the first best example’ of a country where protectionist agricultural tendencies worked well and that GM organisms would not necessarily be needed…“…One of Switzerland’s greatest natural resources is that it is a beautiful country that brings in a lot of tourism. If the Swiss could lower their consumption spending by one per cent by applying high productivity farming, they probably would not do it if it requires changing their approach to how they think about food. Countries like Switzerland are a good example where such things as GM food would be very difficult and perhaps commercially inadvisable.” (Syngenta CEO promotes stronger Swiss-US ties, Swissinfo.ch, June 29, 2009).

If it is reasonable for Switzerland, then why is it not reasonable for our seeds and food to have zero (0%) contamination? Why should we put at risk our seed stock production that has, and continues, to feed our country?”

 

 

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