Northern Ag Network
posted on November 21, 2012 09:44 :: 483 Views
By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI, Capital Press
The USDA should study launching a crop insurance pilot program for farmers harmed by cross-pollination from transgenic crops, according to a committee advising the agency.
A panel of experts assembled by USDA last year recommended the agency should first study the extent of economic losses to determine whether such a compensation mechanism is even necessary.
A final report issued by the USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century notes that its members had reservations about the proposal.
"Members recognize that there are unintended (genetically engineered) materials found in commercial products, but differ in their assessment of the significance of unintended presence, the severity of economic harm and whether such occurrences are increasing, decreasing or remaining the same," the report said.
If the USDA decides a compensation mechanism is needed, the report said it should be based on the model of existing crop insurance programs.
The pilot program should be launched in areas where economic injury from biotech contamination has already occurred, with the USDA offering incentives for farmers to develop "joint coexistence plans" with neighboring growers, the report said.
Under these plans, farmers who want their crops free of biotech genes could receive insurance premium discounts or preferred status under USDA conservation programs if they take steps to minimize cross-pollination risks, the report said.
Before getting compensation, the farmer would need to show "prior intent to produce an identity-preserved product," and demonstrate an "actual financial loss," among other requirements, the report said.
The committee also advised the agency to undertake education and outreach efforts to promote "appropriate stewardship practices" and coexistence between biotech, conventional and organic farmers.
A coalition of biotech critics said the report is "misguided" and would have organic and conventional farmers shoulder the financial responsibility for hazards created by transgenic crop producers.
"This is a completely wrong approach to the tackling the GE contamination problem," said Liana Hoodes, executive director of the National Organic Coalition, in a statement.
Source: Capital Press
Posted by Haylie Shipp