(Host) Vermont Secretary of Agriculture Steve Kerr has indicated that a compromise could be reached that would address many of the concerns about genetically modified seeds used by some Vermont farmers. The seeds have been controversial, in part because of fears that pollen from genetically engineered corn could contaminate organic crops.
Speaking Tuesday night on VPR’s Switchboard program, Kerr said he felt agreement could be reached on issues like required labeling and reporting of genetically engineered seeds. However Kerr said prohibiting the use of the seeds – even temporarily – is unacceptable:
(Kerr) “A moratorium absolutely denies those Vermont farmers who have chosen to farm conventionally, who have chosen to use GE seeds because they have very real weed control problems or insect problems. The moratorium says the only way to allow the organic industry to grow is to deny those conventional farmers the tools that the federal government has said are quite legal and are available in every other state.
(Host) Kerr says instead of a moratorium, he favors an approach where neighboring farmers work together to prevent cross-pollination of genetically engineered and organic crops.
But Progressive Representative David Zuckerman of Burlington says the state needs to do more to protect organic growers:
(Zuckerman) “We have an industry where 20 to 50 conventional dairies are converting to organic every year right now in Vermont. Why, why would we want to restrain or potentially put a risk in that incredible growth in our dairy and our agriculture sector? Why in the sector that is growing and is putting another new positive name on Vermont and it’s products? Why not put a couple of non-thwarting practices in place and laws in place that would make it so that’s really secure?”
(Host) Zuckerman says any bill passed by the Legislature should include required labeling and reporting of GE seeds.
He says the Legislature should also include provisions that make seed manufacturers liable for any losses incurred by organic farmers, whose crops have been affected by genetically engineered seeds.