It's no secret that I'm not a fan of genetically modified crops, so I was fully supportive when part of the state I live in voted to ban genetically modified crops. The hope is that this will be a solution to a common problem with genetically modified crops cross-pollinating nearby fields. This is sometimes called "pollen drift," and it can be a big problem.
First of all, those who are choosing to avoid buying genetically modified foods can be frustrated in their efforts when even their organic purchases have been contaminated with genetically modified material through pollen drift of a nearby field.
Secondly, when crops are meant for export and end up contaminated with GMO, it can have disastrous effects. This was true for Oregon when Japan put a hold on importing Oregon's wheat after some of it was found to contain GMOs. Because 80 percent of Oregon's wheat is exported, this was a huge blow to farmers.
That's why there are supporters for mapping genetically modified fields in Oregon for better transparency and better ability to put adequate buffers between GMO fields and non-GMO fields to control pollen drift.
If Oregon can succeed in this plan, it could be a model for other states to use. But there are those who claim that it's overkill, and that GMO fields are already regulated adequately. Plus, they claim that it will make GMO fields too transparent, and fears of looting of GMO crops (apparently done in protest in the past) could increase.
Currently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture committee recommends informal agreements between neighboring farmers, and having insurance companies pay for damages due to cross pollination between GMO crops and non-GMO crops. Some biotech companies do voluntarily map their fields in cooperation with other farmers; however, it's not mandated or done across the board.
Organic farmers want more transparency, and formal measures in place to hold those growing GE crops accountable and liable for cross-pollination.
Because Oregon regulators don't yet have the authority to map GMO crops, the governor plans on introducing legislation that would give them that in the 2015 session.
Related on MNN:
- How do you know if it's non-GMO?
- Could GMO apples taint the fruit's good reputation?
- General Mills make huge GMO statement
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