News / USA

Can Genetically-Modified and Organic Crops Co-Exist?

USDA promotes co-existence, but opposition remains strong

Opponents of genetically-modified crops - like this maize - are suing the USDA for its recent approval of crops they say are likely to cause contamination in organic fields.
Opponents of genetically-modified crops - like this maize - are suing the USDA for its recent approval of crops they say are likely to cause contamination in organic fields.

Multimedia

Audio

In the midst of lawsuits over genetically modified organisms, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is asking, "Can't we all just get along?"

GMO opponents are suing USDA for its recent approval of crops they say are likely to cause contamination in organic fields. USDA wants to bring the opposing parties together to find ways for GMOs, conventional agriculture, and organic farming to co-exist.

For crops such as maize, GMO and organics are already co-exisiting, if imperfectly. The United States raises more maize than any other country in the world, and almost all of it is genetically modified. There has been almost no evidence of health problems or environmental harm from GMO maize. But that does not mean everyone is okay with it.

Opposition

Lynn Clarkson runs Clarkson Grain and Clarkson Soy Products, two companies serving food and animal feed makers. At a recent USDA panel discussion, he described a conversation he had with a tortilla maker.

"I'm in the food world," the tortilla maker told Clarkson. "I can get sued for all kinds of things and I have a conscience. I don't know if this is safe or not, and I don't want to find out."

That was fine with Clarkson. His companies specialize in organic and non-GMO grains. Opposition to GMOs is one of the factors that have made organic products a $25-billion-a-year market in the United States.

Challenge of co-existence

That highlights a major challenge in American agriculture. How can these two profitable but mutually exclusive types of agriculture co-exist, when there are so many ways contamination can happen? Pollen can travel from a GMO field and contaminate a non-GMO crop. Grains can mix in storage, shipping, or processing.

For the most part, the U.S. government has not gotten involved.

"So far, we have operated under a market-driven system," says University of Missouri economist Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes. "And by and large, generally it has worked."

Premium price for organic

It has worked, he says, because customers are willing to pay a premium for organic and non-GMO products to businessmen like Lynn Clarkson who can provide them.

"So if you wish [to have] non-GMO, it's perfectly fine with me," he says. "If you wish organic, or if you wish [to have] a crop raised under a blue moon, and are willing to pay for it, that's acceptable, too."

Clarkson's customers are willing to pay him extra for the steps he has to take to keep GMOs out of his products. That includes making sure that everyone all along the supply chain uses separate or thoroughly cleaned equipment to grow, harvest, transport, store and process his crops.

Contamination inevitable

But the system is not perfect. Some contamination still happens. And Clarkson says many customers accept that.

"If you deal with the tolerance standards out there today, zero is simply not an option," he says.

Even the normally restrictive European Union is considering lifting its zero-tolerance standard for GMO contamination in imported animal feed. Clarkson says many producers aim for no more than one-tenth of one percent contamination.

"Organic means no GMO"

But attorney George Kimbrell with the Center for Food Safety says that is not good enough for many consumers.

"If you talk to organic consumers, for example, for them, organic means no GMO," he says. "It doesn't mean a little bit of GMO in it."

He says the companies that produced and patented GMO crops should be the ones responsible for keeping them out of organic products, not the other way around. Kimbrell says it's hardly a novel legal concept.

"If your bull breaks out of your barn and causes a ruckus [damage] in my field, you are liable for that," he says. "That liability should extend to the owners of these genetically engineered crop patents."

Contamination likely?

Opponents like Kimbrell say some genetically engineered crops are so likely to cause contamination that they should not be introduced anywhere.

But the USDA believes it is possible for these crops to co-exist with non-GMOs. The department recently approved one of them -- alfalfa, and is nearing approval of another, sugar beets.

The Center for Food Safety has sued USDA to try to keep these crops off the market. Those lawsuits are a big part of why USDA has been stepping up its efforts to promote co-existence.

But the lawsuits continue. And comfortable co-existence between supporters and opponents of GMOs is a long way off.

You May Like

Kurdish Party Pushes Political Gamble to Run in Turkey Poll

HDP announces it will run as political party instead of fielding independent candidates in June election, but faces tough 10 percent threshold More

Twitter Targets Islamic State

New research shows suspending Twitter accounts of Islamic State, its supporters has been effective; group, its backers are facing 'significant pressure,' says terrorism expert More

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

Majur Juac made the leap from being a refugee in Africa to a master chess champion in US, where he shares his expertise with students More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Spacei
X
Rosanne Skirble
January 27, 2015 5:05 PM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Saved By a Mistake - an Auschwitz Survivor's Story

Dagmar Lieblova was 14 when she arrived at Auschwitz in December 1943, along with her entire Czech Jewish family. All of them were to die there, but she was able to leave after several months due to a bureaucratic mix-up which saved her life. Now 85, with three children and six grandchildren, she says she has a feeling of victory. This report by Ahmad Wadiei and Farin Assemi, of RFE/RL's Radio Farda is narrated by RFE’s Raymond Furlong.
Video

Video Weekly Protests in Korea Keep Japanese WWII Atrocities Alive

Every week in Seoul protesters gather in front of the Japanese Embassy to demand an apology and reparations from Tokyo for the thousands of South Korean women who were forced into prostitution during World War II. Although this year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the war, these protestors have helped keep the issue of comfort women alive and made it difficult for Japan to move beyond its past wartime atrocities. VOA's Brian Padden reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Exercise: New Prescription for Parkinsons Disease

Exercise could be the new prescription for Parkinson's Disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement. More than six million people worldwide suffer from Parkinsons and they're traditionally treated with medication and surgery. Shelley Schlender has more.
Video

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Greece’s youngest-ever prime minister, 40-year-old Alexis Tsipras, was sworn in Monday after his victorious far-left Syriza party entered a coalition with far right rivals. Tsipras says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts. So begins a new chapter for the country at the epicenter of Europe’s economic crisis - a change that has sent tremors across the continent, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Oil Price Drop Troubles Texas Producers

As oil prices have fallen over the past several months, drilling operations have slowed in some parts of the United States - including Texas, the state that surpasses all others in energy production. The Lone Star State’s energy output has been boosted in recent years by development of resources trapped deep below ground in the Eagle Ford shale deposit, which stretches across south central Texas. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Karnes City, Texas, the drop in oil prices has created concerns,
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid