MOFGA Position on Genetically Engineered Organisms
Approved April 9, 2006
The Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA) opposes the use of genetically engineered (GE) organisms in agriculture and advocates significant changes in the regulatory framework governing this revolutionary technology.
The few unbiased studies conducted outside the aegis of the biotech manufacturers have indicated that various GE organisms may threaten human health, local farm communities, non-GE seed supplies (or other agricultural genetic resources), non-target insects, and natural biodiversity. Yet no government agency has assumed the responsibility of systematically testing the safety of GE products before they become available on the general market.
Manufacturers and processors are not required to label GE seeds or foods making it difficult for people who wish to avoid using them and impossible to assign responsibility should any health issues arise from their consumption.
The rules of the National Organic program forbid the presence of GE material in organic agricultural products. GE material carried by living organisms can easily reproduce and contaminate organically managed property. Therefore, GE technology directly threatens the certification and economic well-being of organic farmers.
Maine's agriculture is unique and exemplary. We have a high percentage of organic farms and the highest proportion of organic dairy farms in the nation. To encourage the growth of the organic sector, and to protect the interests and rights of the citizenry in general, the State must push an agenda for food and agriculture that views GE technology with skepticism. MOFGA will work cooperatively to promote ecologically, socially and economically beneficial alternatives to GE crops.
- Approach GE technologies with great caution. Farmers in Maine and beyond, and others who might use GE crops, should be skeptical about these technologies. The decision not to commercialize GE-wheat shows what can happen when a wide range of people fully assess the potential impact of these technologies, not just on the farm but also on domestic and foreign markets.
- Require labeling of GE foods or foods that contain ingredients made from GE crops. At least four times, at the request of Maine citizens, the Maine Legislature has considered legislation to require labeling of GE foods, but has succumbed to industry pressure not to label. To provide citizens with informed choice in their food-buying decisions, the State or Federal Government must institute mandatory labeling.
- Protect farmers’ rights. Genetically engineered crops present two major challenges for farmers. First is the potential for cross-contamination, when pollen, seeds or other plant parts from a GE crop show up in organic and non-GE crops. Second is the liability from such contamination. The manufacturer should be held responsible when its patented crops contaminate non-GE crops.
- Encourage GE-free markets. Because relatively few Maine farmers are growing GE crops now, we can still develop markets for GE-free crops grown here. Maine should seek out those markets, whether organic or conventional, and help farmers supply them. This is particularly timely for canola, as Aroostook County is one of a few locations in the country with the potential to develop a GE-free specialty product – canola oil.
- Establish buffer zones. The State should work closely with farmers to establish effective buffer zones between GE and non-GE crops. This will require strong language on minimum buffers in Maine’s existing law on GE seeds. The Department of Agriculture and Cooperative Extension should create procedures to help farmers communicate with one another and minimize conflict.