Our Pal Monsanto Poised to Poison Organic Milk –
sorta. What they’re really about to do is get permission from the USDA to market GE alfalfa that will contaminate organic alfalfa and thus create huge problems for organic dairy farmers. The full story and a petition/comment form asking the USDA to please apply its own standards (sigh) are here (among many other places).
My own – completely unsubstantiated – theory is that individual letters carry a tiny bit more weight than those aggregated by activist organizations, so I wrote directly to the relevant USDA comment page. My letter follows, in case you’re curious, though I’m not sure why I bothered to make any arguments. It’s highly unlikely anyone will actually read them. But somebody will note whether I’m for or against, and that’s why writing matters. Deadline for comments is 2/16.
The USDA’s comment page doesn’t give you a whole lot of space to make your case. No matter, under the circumstances.
(salutation is on the form)
Short Version: GE contamination of feed crops is both anti-competitive and environmentally harmful.
Anti-competitive: Organic feed contaminated by GE traits cannot, by USDA’s own regulations, be used by organic dairies.
Result 1: organic dairies have to find alternative sources and pay more for the now-scarcer feed. Practical outcome: non-organic dairies are given a competitive advantage by the USDA.
Result 2: Organic alfalfa farms are effectively taxed for being organic. If their product is contaminated they suffer large losses that do not befall their competitors. (Not enough words permitted to discuss the inability of liability actions to even this playing field.) Practical outcome: failure of some organic farms, reduction of their farmland’s value and its probable sale at a bargain price to the neighboring GE using farms that caused the reduction in value. Double advantage to GE users.
1. Glyphosate resistant weeds are already a well documented problem; encouraging large-scale glyphosate use in comparatively uncontaminated ecosystems is likely to result in more of these weeds.
2. It is a given that some farmers will fail to comply with whatever safety practices are mandated. There is no practical way to avoid this, thus no efficacy – anywhere – for the safety practices. Unleashing “just a little” altered DNA is like being a little bit pregnant.
Damage to consumers:
Price of organic products goes up for no reason connected to weather, transportation costs or other reasonably expected hazards of farming. USDA is thus again advantaging non-organic entities.
For these reasons, I believe it is anticompetitive and environmentally harmful to grant unregulated status to Glyphosate-tolerant alfalfa and I hope such status will be denied.