[permaculture] The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto: What Now?

Lawrence F. London, Jr. venaurafarm at bellsouth.net
Thu Jan 27 22:49:18 EST 2011

On 1/27/2011 9:23 PM, mIEKAL aND wrote:
> (Here's Organic Valley's position which somewhat contradicts Ronnie's
> inclusion of OV in his indictment.  Full disclosure: I work as
> webmaster of Organic Valley)
> opportunity to comment at:
> http://www.organicvalley.coop/community/organicsense/

Full text included below.

> &  for the record Vilsack's approval of ge alfalfa is one of the most
> hideous mistakes in my memory.....

Organic Sense
GM Alfalfa: What's Happening Now
by George L. Siemon, Organic Valley CEO  on January 25, 2011

I want to share with the organic and food community my experience and 
struggle to stop Roundup Ready® Alfalfa (RR-Alfalfa) from being 
released. This struggle began in 2005 when Monsanto first sought 
approval, and it is now coming to a head as USDA Secretary of 
Agriculture Tom Vilsack has promised to announce the release of the 
first perennial Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) by the end of January.

Through this long fight, with the Center for Food Safety in the lead, we 
successfully blocked the release of RR-Alfalfa. The Supreme Court 
required the USDA to consider the impact of RR-Alfalfa on other forms of 
agriculture, including organic and “GMO sensitive” (traditional 
agriculture not using GMO technology). At heart, the contamination of 
GMOs on other types of agriculture should be treated as a common sense 
property rights issue. After all, if you drove into your neighbor’s car, 
wouldn’t you pay for damages? However, the fact that the USDA even 
considered the impact of RR-Alfalfa on other forms of agriculture is a 
big change given the USDA’s usual “rubber stamp” approval with minimal 
regulatory review of most anything biotech.

One of the USDA’s options is being referred to as the “co-existence” 
proposal. Co-existence is acknowledging the inevitable—continued 
dominance of GMO crops—while trying to consider the long-term 
implications for organic and GMO sensitive markets. Co-existence 
includes consideration of long-term seed purity and control, 
compensation funds for lost markets and associated monitoring costs, and 
input labeling. The biotech industry is against any discussion about 
co-existence and, of course, is outraged that we would ask for 
consideration of remuneration of pollution and seed contamination.

The biotech industry has waged a complete war on the Secretary of 
Agriculture for following the Supreme Court order and for the 
consideration of a co-existence proposal. They used all their influence 
to have the Secretary’s job challenged. There here have been op-eds in 
major papers and magazines (“Sack Vilsack,” Forbes), special meetings 
with the White House, grilling by the Justice Department, endless 
lobbying, and on Thursday of last week, a Congressional member forum was 
held where the Secretary was taken to the wood shed and asked repeatedly 
why he had not approved RR-alfalfa sooner. All this for simply opening 
the coexistence conversation and acknowledging that property rights and 
other markets should be considered.

Predictably, the biotech industry has all angles covered—for example, 
the organic community tried to get an op-ed published to counter false 
charges, but the letter was not picked up by a single paper despite our 
efforts. As a result, the public is left with biotech’s exaggerations 
and spin with no counter perspective. The resources they have put into 
this fight convinces me that they are worried about the strength and 
growth of the organic industry.

There is no doubt now that RR-Alfalfa will be released. It would be a 
victory if we can, for the first time, get conditions on that release 
that would give assurance to protect our future seeds, our market and 
consumer confidence.

Organic agriculture continues to be a beacon of hope. More than ever, we 
need to face our broken food system and look for models that solve our 
serious food problems without creating new problems. Organic offers us 
the solutions we need for a healthy future for all.

In the face of ongoing approval of GMOs, we need to work together to 
educate consumers to choose organic and vote with their dollar for food 
they can trust.

In Cooperation,

George L. Siemon

George Siemon is C-E-I-E-I-O of the nation’s largest organic, 
farmer-owned cooperative, Organic Valley. Organic Valley is committed to 
tirelessly working for their mission of spreading the value of organic 
farming to answer so many concerns of a sustainable future.

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