Daily News Archive
Documents Impacts of Genetically Modified Organisms on Organic Farms
Pesticides, May 27, 2003) In
a nationwide survey conducted by the Organic
Farming Research Foundation (OFRF), certified organic farmers have
reported the first direct financial and related operational impacts
associated with the threat of contamination by genetically modified
organisms (GMOs). National standards for organic products, recently
implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture exclude recombinant-DNA
technologies from use in organic farming. In addition, there are a variety
of strict tolerances for GMO contamination imposed on organic growers
by foreign and domestic buyers.
Coping with the threat and consequences of GMO contamination is a recent
development for organic farmers. "In 1998, when OFRF conducted
our previous survey, GMO contamination was not yet a national issue,"
said OFRF Executive Director Bob Scowcroft. "These new survey results
based on the 2001 crop year document that significant impacts have begun
to occur within a very short time frame. If this trend continues, what
we're seeing now will prove to be just the tip of the iceberg."
According to OFRF President Ron Rosmann, a diversified organic farmer
from Harlan, Iowa, "This new data supports OFRF's call for a moratorium
on the release of GMOs until there is a solid regulatory framework that
prevents genetic pollution and assigns liability for the damages imposed
by GMO contamination."
The OFRF survey, Sustaining Organic Farms in a Changing Organic Marketplace,
included nine questions related to GMOs and organic farming. Highlights
of the survey results are as follows:
* 17% of survey respondents indicated that they have had GMO testing
conducted on some portion of their organic farm seed, inputs or farm
products. 11% of those that had GMO testing conducted indicated that
they received positive test results for GMO contamination on some portion
of their organic seed, inputs or farm products.
* 8% of the respondents indicated that their organic farm operation
has borne some direct costs or damages related to the presence of GMOs
in agriculture. These costs include: payment for testing seed, inputs,
or organic farm products for GMO contamination; loss of organic sales/markets
due to actual contamination or perceived contamination risk; loss of
sales due to presence of GMOS in organic product; or loss of organic
certification due to presence of GMOs in organic products.
* 48% of the survey respondents indicated that they have taken some
measures to protect their organic farms from GMO contamination. The
greatest percentage, 24%, indicated that they have communicated with
neighboring farmers about GMO risks to their farm.
* 19% indicated that they have increased the size of buffer zones to
neighboring farms, 18% have
discontinued use of certain inputs at risk for GMO contamination, 15%
have adjusted timing of crop planting, 13% have altered cropping patterns
or crops produced, and 9% have changed cropping locations.
* 46% of the survey respondents rated the risk of exposure and possible
contamination of their organic farm products by GMOs as moderate or
greater, with 30% characterizing their farm's risk as high or very high.
Survey respondents identified contaminated seed stock as their primary
concern as a possible source of GMO contamination of their organic farm
products (identified as a moderate to high risk by 48% of respondents).
This was followed by GMO pollen drift in the field (identified as a
moderate to high risk by
*42% of respondents) and contaminated farm inputs, other than seed,
(identified by 30% of respondents as a moderate to high risk). Such
inputs might include seed inoculants or manures and composts from materials
obtained from off the farm.
*Only 10% of survey respondents feel that a regulatory framework is
in place to adequately protect their organic farm products from damages
due to contamination from GMOs.
In spring 2002, OFRF mailed a 22-page survey to certified organic farmers
throughout the U.S, with 1,034 farmers responding. The 4th National
Organic Farmers' Survey, Sustaining Organic Farms in a Changing Organic
Marketplace, is OFRF's first survey to focus specifically on organic
farmers' experiences in the organic market. The survey was conducted
with support from True North Foundation, Wallace Genetic Foundation,
the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, and contributors to OFRF's
general program fund.
The OFRF survey included 8 sections: Farm profile; Production and product
detail; Marketing your organic products; Organic market conditions,
2001; Information and services; Marketing orders and organic; GMOs and
organic; and More about you and your farm (demographics). OFRF surveys
collect and disseminate information on the demographics, production,
marketing and research priorities of organic farmers in the U.S. The
survey population is developed from producer certification lists voluntarily
provided by organic certification agencies.
OFRF survey results relevant to GMOs and organic farms will be released
this week at the Organic Trade Association's All Things Organic Conference
and Trade Show in Austin, Texas. The complete results of OFRF's 4th
National Organic Farmers' Survey: Sustaining Organic Farms in a Changing
Organic Marketplace will be published in fall 2003.
For more information about the survey CONTACT: Bob Scowcroft, 831-426-6606
or Erica Walz, 435-826-4565 at the Organic
Farming Research Foundation in Santa Cruz, California.