Oregon organic farmers are growing increasingly concerned about GMO contamination. Willamette Valley is not being viewed as a “test case” for farming coexistence in our increasingly genetically modified world.
Organic Trade Association Executive Vice President Laura Batcha said, “The Wilamette Valley is a test case. You have to be able to make coexistence work there because the market is so sensitive. It’s mission critical.” The extremely fertile Willamette region is borderd by the Cascades Mountains, which is known for its hops, wine, hazelnuts, and seeds. Growers in the region have engaged in a voluntary “pinning system” to prevent cross-pollination to help ensure the integrity of their respective crops.
Andrew Still, a successful organic farmer in Oregon now has to factor GMO contamination into his list of possible harvest killing hurdles. The man-made concern of cross-contamination by genetically engineered (GE) crops is rising to the top of the list of woes for farmers across the country seeking to sell crops to folks trying to keep GMO food off their plates. Still had this to say about growing organic crops alongside GMO farms, “We want to be nice to our neighbors and work together, but we can’t take any chances.”
Genetically modified crops now account for roughly 90 percent of the food grown in the United States. The market for organic or traditionally grown and raised food was up from $6.1 billion in 2000 to $29 billion in 2012. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is now welcoming public comment to help improve the “coexistence of biotech and non-biotech farms.” The public comment period ends on March 4.
Oregon State University science professor Carol Mallory-Smith said, “The markets don’t want any contamination with a genetic engineered plant. It makes producers very concerned.” The GMO wheat incident in Oregon last year makes the state the flashpoint in the GMO crop debate. Wheat prices dropped significantly and international orders were cancelled when fears of GMO wheat cross-contamination surfaced.
Jackson County, Oregon residents in May will take to the ballot box to voice their opinion about a proposed GMO crops ban in the county. Last year state lawmakers passed a referendum against similar initiatives in other regions of the state, GMO free advocacy groups are still fighting to overturn the legislation.
Oregon GMO farmer John Reerslev does not support the GMO ban. “When you have all these lawsuits and initiatives and ballots, yes, it’s pretty unsettling. Despite what opponents may wish, biotech is here to stay. I grow modified beets because that’s what my buyers want.”
Why would grocery stores desire genetically engineered crops over those grown as nature intended?