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Crop Coexistence Continues to Work for Farmers

March 6, 2014

In November 2013, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) solicited comments to better identify ways to foster communication and collaboration among those involved in diverse agricultural production systems in order to further agricultural coexistence.  This solicitation of comments was initiated in response to recommendations from the USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology & 21st Century Agriculture.

To demonstrate a broad industry coalition on the matter of coexistence, a group of 12 agricultural organizations including BIO, submitted comments arguing that coexistence between organic crops, GM crops, and conventional crops IS working:

“Coexistence is not a new practice, nor is it unique to biotechnology-derived crops…Coexistence is not about health or safety; it is about finding ways to improve working relationships when different production systems are used in close proximity. During the AC21 meetings, the AC21 members discussed how coexistence has been accomplished through local and regional farm level practices such as separating crops by distance, utilizing different planting times, contracts, seed quality management systems, minimizing physical seed mixing, and respecting and communicating with neighbors.

“Further, during the course of the AC21 meetings, no evidence was presented that might indicate that economic harm is routinely being experienced by farmers due to the unintended presence of GE material. So, we agree with USDA’s goal to further education efforts to strengthen collaboration between neighbors.”

In its recent statement, the American Farm Bureau agrees by saying,

“The fact of the matter is that for decades now, a hallmark of U.S. agriculture has been the ability of farmers to pursue innovation, utilize diverse cropping systems and respond to consumer demand for high-value, identity-preserved and specialty crops. Contrary to the claims by some who have a stake in muddying the waters with overblown charges, the diversity and vitality of our industry would not be possible if not for the past success of coexistence, or as we practice it, just being a good neighbor.”

These organizations recognize the importance of education and outreach on the issue of coexistence and identify farmers as the leaders of this initiative.  Additionally, they stated that “the diversity and dynamism of the US agricultural industry would not be possible but for the past and continuing success of coexistence.”

Furthermore, former GMO opponent Mary Lynas believes that coexistence is achievable:

“To those who are not convinced, let’s have a peaceful coexistence because having GMOs will not wipe out all the other seeds; organic seeds and GMOs can co-exist. Bio tech is not the solution to every single problem but we must be pro-choice. Farmers who want traditional varieties should have their rights and those who want high yielding GMO seeds should have the right to plant them. I don’t know any pro-GMO scientist who goes out in the night and uproots organic crops,” Lynas said.

GMO crops have been subjected to vandalism in recent years with the cutting down of Hawaii’s rainbow papaya trees, sugarbeets uprooted in Oregon and field trials of Golden Rice in the Philippines decimated by anti-GMO activists.

Farmers have been successfully practicing coexistence since the dawn of agriculture, and many modern farmers grow biotech and organic plots on the same operation without any problems.

The agricultural organizations mentioned consist of the Agricultural Retailers Association; American Farm Bureau Federation; American Seed Trade Association; American Sugarbeet Growers Association; American Soybean Association; Biotechnology Industry Organization; CropLife America; National Association of Wheat Growers; National Corn Growers Association; National Cotton Council; National Council of Farmer Cooperatives; and the Western Growers.