Genetic pollution is threatening consumers' right to choose
International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements - Press Release
Despite the organic movement's stringent efforts to keep GMOs (genetically engineered /modified organisms) out of organic production, some US organic farmers have found their corn (maize) crops, including seeds, to contain detectable levels of genetically engineered DNA.
"Those who claim ownership rights to these genes should be held liable for their uncontrolled spread in the environment and into our food," says Gunnar Rundgren, President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), which unites 730 member organisations in 103 countries.
The organic movement is firm in its opposition to any use of GMOs in agriculture, and organic standards explicitly prohibit their use. The farmers, whose seed is contaminated, have been under rigid organic certification, which assures that they did not use any kind of genetically modified materials on their farms. Any trace of GMOs must have come from outside their production areas. While the exact origin is unclear at this time, it is most likely that the pollution has been caused by pollen drift from GMO-fields in surrounding areas. However, the contamination may have also come from the seed supply. Seed producers, who intended to supply GMO-free seed, have also been confronted with genetic pollution and cannot guarantee that their seed is 100% GMO-free.
"This is more evidence that GMOs are polluting the environment in a way that is outside the control of society or the companies that have released these GMOs, and we are outraged. It means that consumers could soon be deprived of their right to choose GMO-free food, if this unwanted spread of genetically altered genes is not stopped," Gunnar Rundgren continues.
Organic products remain the best option for consumers who wish to avoid GMO-food and resist their use in agriculture. Organic farmers and independent certification agencies will take all reasonable measures to prevent contamination. However, IFOAM, organic farmers and certifiers can not do this job alone. Unless action is taken immediately, it may soon be impossible to produce uncontaminated organic corn crops in the US. This is equally true for conventional farmers who want to produce corn without GMOs.
The problem of pollution not only has direct consequences for organic farmers; it also means a dramatic loss of the cultural heritage of agricultural varieties, which has huge implications for populations around the world. For thousands of years, humans have selected and bred natural varieties adapted to unique climatic zones and regional properties, in order to provide us with quality food. It is the aim of organic agriculture to preserve this natural way, based on sound scientific and ecological principles.
IFOAM calls on governments and regulatory agencies throughout the world to immediately ban the use of genetic engineering in agriculture and food production, while there is still a chance to stop this unwanted pollution. IFOAM further holds genetic engineering industries responsible for the damage they have inflicted on organic farmers. Governments are therefore urged to pass legislation that makes GMO companies liable for all genetic pollution caused by the products they own.
Anaheim/USA and Tholey-Theley/Germany
March 9th 2001
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