Organic Consumers Association

GE Corn Contamination In Vermont Threatens Organic Farmers

Date Posted: 12/19/2003
Subject: GMO contamination of organic corn found in Vermont Posted By:
VPIRG test finds genetic contamination of organic corn Contamination spells
trouble for Vermont organic farmers -- Full report online

For Immediate Release: December 18, 2003

Montpelier, VT - Genetic testing commissioned by VPIRG (Vermont Public
Interest Research Group) of corn grown in accordance with organic standards
and corn grown conventionally found contamination from pollen from
genetically engineered corn. VPIRG collected corn from 12 farms in Vermont
and had the kernels analyzed for genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, by
the Illinois Crop Improvement Association laboratory in Champaign,

One of the samples tested was positive for contamination for the CRY 1AB
gene, engineered to express the bacterial toxin Bt in every plant cell.

VPIRG Environmental Advocate Ben Davis said, "The presence of this gene
indicates contamination from Bt corn pollen. Unintentional contamination
from GMO crops is now a reality in Vermont, and unless stopped, could spell
the beginning of the end for organic agriculture in Vermont."

The low level detected indicates the contamination resulted from drift
rather than contaminated seed. No samples tested positive for presence of
GMO corn engineered for tolerance to the pesticide Roundup.

Because pollen from GMO crops such as corn can drift hundreds of yards
offsite or miles in the case of insect-pollinated crops, the risk of
contamination to non-GMO crops increases with every planting. New GMO
introductions are on the near horizon, including wind-pollinated pasture and
hay grasses engineered to grow low to the ground, as well as
insect-pollinated forage crops such as clover and alfalfa.

John Cleary from the Northeast Organic Farmers Association said, "Organic
and conventional farmers are both threatened by GMO technology-through the
merging of corporations, loss of varietal selection and sources of seeds.
Genetically modified organisms are prohibited in organic farming systems.
Organic farmers will lose the ability to sell food as organic if the crop is
contaminated by genetic drift from GMO crops. Because of this, NOFA supports
a timeout on the planting of GMO seeds in Vermont until we can assess the
impacts for both organic and conventional growers."

Vermont organic farmers are not at risk-yet-of losing organic certification
if their organic crop becomes contaminated. But Vermont's farmers do risk
losing their market advantage if GMO contamination becomes widespread.
Economic losses to organic and non-GMO conventional farmers are already
happening elsewhere in North America.

"Rising consumer demand will give GMO-free regions and states the ability to
capture the growing global appetite for GMO-free foods," Davis said. "Every
Vermont farmer will have an assured future when Vermont becomes GMO-free.
It's time for our top elected and appointed officials to stop doing the
bidding of the biotech corporations and act in the best interest of Vermont
farmers by supporting a moratorium on the planting of GMOs"

VPIRG is a Vermont-based nonprofit, nonpartisan public interest advocacy
organization with approximately 20,000 members across the state. A full copy
of the report Blowing in the Wind can be found on-line at <> .

Mark A. Kastel
M.A.Kastel and Associates, Inc.
P.O. Box 2
La Farge, Wisconsin 54639

608-625-2042 voice
608-625-2043 fax

³How we eat determines to a considerable extent how the world is used.²
Wendell Berry

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