Agriculture Secretary calls for ‘new paradigm’ of cooperation in GM debate

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Gm sugar beets, Supreme court of the united states

Agriculture Secretary calls for ‘new paradigm’ of cooperation in GM debate
USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has called for compromise and cooperation between supporters of genetically modified (GM) crops and those of non-GM crops in an open letter to stakeholders.

Vilsack’s call comes after another year of litigation involving the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), in which the Center for Food Safety among others won federal court cases banning the planting of GM alfalfa and GM sugar beets, both supplied by Monsanto. The Supreme Court allowed continued planting of GM alfalfa while the USDA prepared an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), which it completed in mid-December, following years of litigation.

And a federal court in San Francisco has ordered that GM sugar beets be uprooted on similar grounds, although a court of appeals decision has delayed their destruction until March at least.

Vilsack said in the letter that he is confident in the USDA’s regulatory system for approving crop safety, saying that its decisions are science-based and “science strongly supports the safety of GE alfalfa” – ​although he also acknowledged that farmers of non-GM alfalfa have legitimate concerns about cross-pollination.

“Litigation will potentially lead to the courts deciding who gets to farm their way and who will be prevented from doing so,”​ he wrote. “Regrettably, what the criticism we have received on our GE alfalfa approach suggests, is how comfortable we have become with litigation – with one side winning and one side losing – and how difficult it is to pursue compromise.

“Surely, there is a better way, a solution that acknowledges agriculture's complexity, while celebrating and promoting its diversity. By continuing to bring stakeholders together in an attempt to find common ground where the balanced interests of all sides could be advanced, we at USDA are striving to lead an effort to forge a new paradigm based on coexistence and cooperation. If successful, this effort can ensure that all forms of agriculture thrive so that food can remain abundant, affordable, and safe.”

Science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety Bill Freese told FoodNavigator-USA.com that he was impressed by what he sees as Vilsack’s genuine concern for farmers, but said GM and non-GM crop coexistence is particularly difficult for alfalfa.

“Everyone sounds reasonable but when push comes to shove, if there’s no liability, it’s just words,” ​Freese said.

Related topics: The GM debate, Regulation

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Re: Comment posted by Alex Avery, Hudson Institute's Center for Global Food Issuesute

Posted by Iwona,

Wikipedia: "The Hudson Institute's IRS Form 990 for the financial year ending on September 30, 2003 showed total revenue of $9.34 million, including over $146,000 in government grants. Although several of the organizations listed below no longer exist, some of the funding sources listed in the institute's 2002 annual report include:

Ag Processing Inc
American Crop Protection Association
American Cyanamid
Archer Daniels Midland
Cargill
Ciba-Geigy
ConAgra Foods
Conrad Black
CropLife International
DowElanco
DuPont
Eli Lilly and Company
Exxon Mobil
Fannie Mae
General Electric Fund
Heinz
IBM
Lilly Endowment
McDonald's
Merck
Microsoft
Monsanto
National Agricultural Chemical Association
Nichols-Dezenhall Communications Management Group
Novartis
PayPal
PhRMA
PriceWaterhouseCoopers
Procter & Gamble
Sunkist Growers
Syngenta Crop Protection
United Agri Products
Westfield Corporation"

Self explanatory.....

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Genetic contamination IS a big deal

Posted by Cassandra,

Genetic contaminaton (of organic stock by GMO stock) IS a big deal - for several obvious reasons:
1. The essential reputation of the organic foods industry is grounded in the purity of its stock and methods. A legal atmosphere that tolerates contamination is an invitation to wage war on the organic industry, while saying "Aw shucks, it's just an act of God." God didn't develop GMO plants and put them in the ground, Monsanto and its ilk did.
2. Because of current patent law (why should life forms be patentable?), organic farmers can be and are sued by GMO producers when their crops are contaminated. This is adding insult to injury - or is it injury to injury - since the contamination is damaging to their business in the first place. Victoms or contamination are just that - victoms.
3. Economic and industry interests aside, we need to preserve genetic diversity, as a buffer against agricultural calamities - both foreseen and not foreseen. Genetic diversity can only help us as a species, it cannot hurt. Elimination of genetic diversity can only hurt us.

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Genes do not compromise

Posted by Informed consumer,

"Compromise"? "Celebrate" agriculture's "diversity"? Oh, PLEASE! One can almost smell the desperation in Vilsack's (nee Monsanto's) new attempt to shut the conscious consumer the hell up.
Genes do not compromise. The ones that can best propagate themselves given the environmental matrix in which they land, win. And the American government is doing its utmost to create a matrix in which GE takes all. Damn the end results to the consumers, the environment and even the engineered life forms themselves - increasing profit and control for the gene "owners" is ALL that counts.
If we really wanted to make food abundant and affordable, we would focus on developing low-impact organic farming (think Fukuoka's methods), putting our unemployed population to work on clean farms, eating more veg and a lot less meat (or none at all), and consider keeping our population in balance with what sustainable farmland can reasonably supply.
But of course, pouring huge quantities of scarce tax payer dollars into propping up a system that uses prodigious quantities of non-renewable energy resources to figure out how to produce new crops that are hugely energy-intensive, and which spin off all sorts of problems that are incredibly difficult to manage, is just so much easier.
Or, maybe not? At any rate, despite Mr. Vilsack's politically-correct politspeak, there will be no compromise from THIS organic consumer!

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