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Writings by FARFA Board Member, Howard Vlieger:



Adopted by the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, May 24, 2010

Genetic engineering involves taking a gene from one species and splicing it into the genome of another species in order to transfer a desired trait. This could not occur in nature where the transfer of genetic traits is limited by the natural barriers that exist between different species. Genetic engineering is completely new and is not comparable to traditional animal and plant breeding techniques. Another name for genetically engineered (GE) crops is genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In the U.S., GE crops have been released on the market without fair, open, and thorough scientific research to assess the risks to animal health, human health, or the environment. There has also been no assessment of the social or economic impact on farmers and rural communities. The use of genetic engineering in agriculture poses problems for both farmers and consumers.

Genetic engineering enables large corporations to accelerate capital- and chemical- intensive agriculture at the expense of family farmers and rural communities around the world, increasing consolidation and concentration of agriculture. Genetic engineering in agriculture is not designed to solve critical problems such as increased weed resistance or growing staple crops on marginal land, but rather to enrich corporations. Genetically engineered seeds increase costs to farmers and have frequently failed to perform as promised. In fact, in yields have been lower than with conventional seeds, while the GE crops required increased use of herbicides manufactured by the same corporations that market the seeds.

In addition, U.S. farmers have lost critical markets that are closed to GE products. Genetically engineered crops have contaminated non-GE crops, resulting in damages of over a billion dollars to exports. A report from the U.S. Governmental Accountability Office concluded that unauthorized releases of GE crops are likely to continue.i

To date, the corporations that have developed and sold GE seeds have avoided liability for the damage caused by genetic contamination, increased weed and pest resistance, and the destruction of wildlife and beneficial insects. The destruction of beneficial insects, including pollinators such as bees, could be potentially devastating to agriculture and our economy, not just to farmers. Yet farmers have been harassed, and even sued, for contamination of their crops by GE crops.

For consumers, genetic engineering poses unknown health consequences. Genetic engineering poses unknown risks to the safety and security of the food supply. There are no studies of the long-term health effects of eating foods containing GE crops. Several short-term studies indicate that GE foods can cause gastrointestinal, reproductive, and other health problems. Because
foods containing GE engineered ingredients do not have to be labeled in the U.S., consumers are unable to make informed choices.

The Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance, a nonprofit that includes both farmer and consumer members, therefore resolves that:

1. Further government approvals of any genetically engineered seeds and agriculture products should be halted until an independent and comprehensive assessment of the environmental, health, social, and economic impacts of those products is concluded.

2. Private ownership of life forms should not be permitted, and the patenting of seeds, plants, animals, genes and cell lines should be banned.

3. Agrarian people who have cultivated and nurtured crops for thousands of years should retain control of natural resources and maintain the right to use or reuse any genetic resource.

4. Corporations that develop or market genetically engineered seeds, livestock, or other products should be held liable for any and all damages that result from their use, including the contamination of non-GE crops through cross-pollination. The entities should be subject to normal trespass and nuisance laws to prevent them from entering farmers’ private property
without permission.

5. Corporations that create genetically engineered organisms should bear the burden of proof that their actions will not harm human health, animal health, or the environment. Because GMOs could not occur in nature, there should be no assumption that they are “substantially equivalent” to non-GMOs.

6. Consumers in the U.S. and around the globe have the right to know whether their food is genetically engineered and have a right to access naturally produced food.

iGAO, Genetically Engineered Crops: Agencies Are Proposing Changes to Improve Oversight, but Could Take Additional Steps to Enhance Coordination and Monitoring (Nov. 2008), GAO-09-60, p.1.