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Groundswell of US Farmers Warn Against GE Crops

In a political bombshell today 25 US farming organisations have warned their thousands of members against planting genetically modified seeds. John Howard reports.

Some 25 US farm organisations have joined the battle against genetically modified foods with a call to members to refrain from planting bio-engineered crops next season.

The 25 groups attending the Farmers Summit Conference on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture in Washington have issued a ten-point plan for greater oversight of GM crops as well as independent testing and labelling of GM foods.

This producer gathering has now backed consumer groups in the United States and Europe that have been fighting the growth of crops that are genetically manipulated by technology companies.

The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) and the National Family Farm Coalition cautioned of the economic risk of cultivating crops which might not find a a market overseas, given the negative consumer sentiments towards them in Europe and Asia.

"Export markets in Europe and Asia are saying "no" to foods produced from genetically engineered crops," said Gary Goldberg, chief executive of ACGA.

Goldberg also warned his association's 14,000 grower members that they could be laying themselves open to massive liability from damage caused by genetic drift, increased weed and pest resistance and the destruction of wildlife and beneficial insects.

He urged farmers, who are currently deciding whether to plant conventional or genetically modified seeds, not to postpone those decisions.

"It is clear that if farmers have any uncertainty over the availability of a market for GM crops next year or questions over segregation, cross-pollination or liability, they should consider planting alternatives," Goldberg concluded.

The National Family Farm Coalition urged biotech companies Monsanto, DuPont, Novartis among others, to promote the sale of traditional commercial seed varieties pending rigerous independent testing to assess their effect on human health and the environment.

"If corporate agribusiness continues to flood the market place with these untested products, the companies should be held liable for the damage caused by the seeds approved without adequate assessment of risks to farmers, human health and the environment," said Bill Christison, president of the Coalition.

ends

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