An ambitious proposal will help prevent contamination between organic and nonorganic crops, but Big Ag says it’s unnecessary.
In an incredible win last month, organic famers in southern Oregon defeated the big guys when local voters banned genetically engineered crops. Despite the $1 million campaign waged by the region’s largest agribusiness groups, a two-thirds majority approved the ban. Now the Beaver State is planning yet another giant move: mapping GMO fields.
Gov. John Kitzhaber directed the state’s agriculture department to chart where genetically modified crops are grown. Organic plants often become contaminated by GMOs, making them unsellable in the export market. The mapping, also known as pinning, will set up buffer zones and establish prohibited areas for engineered crops to minimize cross-pollination. If the initiative moves forward, Oregon would be the first state to require preventative regulations for GMOs.
Due to market competition, biotech companies such as Monsanto don’t publicly disclose their field locations. They maintain that growers already coexist throughout the nation and that more surveillance is unnecessary. But more than a few farmers, including Oregon organic growers, disagree. Swiss agri giant Syngenta recently refused to participate in the effort to create a mapping system because “it does not fit with their business model.”
Oregon is already creating a digital map of farming communities, which could be used to develop the proposed mapping system. New GMO legislation could be introduced in next year’s session that would push the mapping plan through in the state.