Results from a recent survey of organic grain growers, pertaining to GE contamination avoidance and economic losses associated with contamination, highlight the risks and effects of GE contamination on organic farmers. Data collected and compiled by Food & Water Watch, in partnership with the Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing (OFARM), is available as a downloadable summary report, Organic Farmers Pay the Price for GMO Contamination.
Survey findings indicate that not only does skepticism surrounding coexistence between GE and non-GE growing practices abound in the organic community, but also that organic farmers are already dealing with GE contamination on their respective farms. Approximately one out of 3 (31%) of the responding farmers have experienced GE contamination, and half of those farmers faced with contamination have had organic crops rejected in the marketplace. Additional economic burdens come with rejection: farmers must pay for the transportation of the crop back from the buyer, resulting in the cost of “double freight.” Re-routing a crop designated for an organic or non-GE market poses another challenge to farmers.
Costs of contamination were also calculated for preventative measures to GE avoidance, including practices implemented to impede gene flow- like delayed planting and buffer zones- and cleaning of equipment to hinder commingling of GE and non-GE crops. Based on survey responses, the median cost of GE avoidance tactics is $520 per year per farm. Testing costs add a median of $200 annually.
Strained relationships between neighboring farmers is another cost, though non-monetary, in light of GE contamination.
And the organic farmers surveyed fear that things will only get worse. Over two-thirds of the respondents said that good stewardship and avoidance practices are not enough to protect non-GE and organic growers from GE contamination.
Food & Water Watch and OFARM offer recommendations on a policy level. Among them, the USDA should require mandatory stewardship requirements for GE crop production, thereby ensuring the responsibility for GE contamination avoidance is shared. Furthermore, the GE patent holders should be held accountable for economic losses associated with GE contamination.