The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) has submitted comments to the United States Department of Agriculture's Advisory Committee on Agricultural Biotechnology. These comments include sixteen (16) recommendations that will protect agricultural producers in this whole debate over genetically modified (GMO) crops. The Committee was formed to advise USDA Secretary Dan Glickman on the contentious issues surrounding GMOs and their implications on America's farmers.
The ACGA has taken a leadership position by presenting and implementing its ''Farmer Choice-Customer First'' program. This program is geared to providing farmers with unbiased, honest and objective information to assist them in making educated decisions about what seed types to plant in the future and the concerns over marketability, cross-pollination, segregation and liability.
''The ACGA is concerned that while those within the biotechnology, academic and environmental community will have the opportunity to express their opinions about the proliferation of GMOs to the Committee, agricultural producers will be left out of this debate,'' said Gary Goldberg, Chief Executive Officer of the ACGA. ''After all, our responsibility is to farmers, not to the biotechnology industry and we want to make sure that farm voices are heard concerning the issue of GMOs and their impact.''
The following recommendations were presented to the Advisory Committee:
- Require the USDA to provide fair and evenhanded information to farmers, spelling out the benefits AND risks associated with the continued use of GMOs.
- Use the ACGA's Farmer Choice-Customer First Program as the means to communicate unbiased and objective information to the agricultural community.
- Require the Food and Drug Administration to begin long-term, independent testing on GMO products.
- Mandate labels on all food items that contain GMOs.
- Investigate the contamination of the nation's seed supply and why some non-GMO seed has been found to be contaminated with genetically modified seeds.
- Examine the logistical problems associated with on-farm segregation and call on the USDA to pay for all on-farm testing and certification resulting from the separation of GMOs from non-GMOs.
- Provide financial incentives to grain elevators to allow them to upgrade their facilities to meet the challenge of crop segregation.
- Place any liability for contamination resulting from cross-pollination with the seed companies and not with those farmers planting the seeds.
- Have USDA develop a universal certificate for non-GMO delivery of crops so that farmers will be protected when selling their grain to elevators.
- Mandate that USDA put as much emphasis and resources into selling non-GMOs as they currently do on selling GMOs to our overseas customers.
- Respect the wishes of our overseas customers and remember that the customer is always right.
- Do not impose trade sanctions against any country refusing to accept GMOs as long as they continue to purchase non-GMO products.
- Investigate the relationship between those commodity associations receiving corporate financial support from the biotechnology industry and their endorsement of genetically modified crops.
- Recognize the concerns of corporate concentration in the seed industry and the negative affect of having a handful of companies controlling the production and distribution of seeds. Call on the USDA to conduct field hearings on this topic.
- Immediately discontinue all USDA involvement in the so-called ''terminator technology'' and recognize the fact that it was an inappropriate use of farmer-supported tax dollars.
- Investigate the relationship between USDA and the biotechnology industry to guarantee that the Agency advocates for farmers first and foremost and not the chemical or seed interests.
''Farmers are being forced to face a great deal of uncertainty on this issue of GMOs. The Advisory Committee can help clarify many of the issue surrounding the planting and harvesting of GMOs if they follow the recommendations submitted by the ACGA,'' concluded Goldberg.
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