(Host) The Vermont Public Interest Research Group has released a study that it says reinforces the case for a moratorium on the use of genetically engineered seeds in Vermont. An official with the biotechnology industry says the study and VPIRG’s conclusions are flawed.
VPR’s Steve Zind reports.
(Zind) VPIRG collected samples from 12 Vermont farms that use non-genetically engineered corn and had them tested at a lab in the Midwest. The analysis shows that one of the samples, corn from an organically certified farm, was contaminated with a gene found in genetically engineered corn. According to VPIRG, the level of contamination indicates it was probably caused by pollen carried by the wind from a nearby farm using genetically engineered corn.
VPIRG says the study shows it’s impossible for farms growing GE crops to coexist with farms that use conventional or organic seeds. Ben Davis is VPIRG’s environmental advocate. Davis says the study proves there needs to be a moratorium on the use of GE seeds.
(Davis) “It’s a clear indication that unintentional contamination is a reality in Vermont now and unless stopped could spell the beginning of the end for organic agriculture in Vermont.”
(Zind) Val Giddings is a geneticist and Vice President Food and Agriculture at the Washington based Biotechnology Industry Organization questions the study’s findings. Giddings says the number of samples used is very small. He says the suspect gene found in the corn is also found in a common soil bacteria.
Giddings says even if the test proves the presence of genetically engineered crops, a farm would still keep its organic certification. He cites a section of the National Organic Standards which allows for accidental cross pollination between genetically engineered and organic crops.
(Giddings) “That paragraph right there invalidates all of the criticisms and complaints they have, because as long as an organic farmer does not knowingly and deliberately use seeds derived from a biotech variety, then he or she is completely blameless it’s just not a disqualification as is clearly laid out.”
(Zind) Advocates say that while a farm could still be certified organic, the presence GE contamination would destroy the confidence consumers have that organic crops contain no genetically engineered products and would ultimately cripple organic farming in Vermont.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.