Government policy holding free trade as a priority over bio-security could leave farmers facing hugely increased insurance costs to protect their capacity to meet export quality and safety standards.
A report on co-existence of production systems by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shows that an official policy to allow companies to cause widespread contamination of GM seed without liability, means farmers will be left to carry the costs of crop protection.
The USDA report on “Enhancing Co-existence” (1) says that expensive insurance is the best solution for US farmers to the problem of GE contamination of crops. The report from the UDSA AC21 group acknowledges that GE contamination will occur but supports the power of Monsanto to litigate any farmer who saves seed accidentally contaminated with GE.
There is concern that the US could now promote this policy as part of the closed-door negotiations of the Trans Pacific Trade agreement (TPPA). Farmers should be demanding protection against the TPPA forcing costs onto New Zealand farmers in the form of 'deregulation' of bio-security standards designed to benefit agribusiness and corporate interests.
"Such an approach to trade could see other bio-security costs directed onto farmers", said Jon Carapiet, spokesman for GE-FreeNZ in food and environment.
"The argument that farmers must pay the costs of protection against GM contamination could be extended to other costs vital to maintain the integrity of the food system."
"This is a warning for farmers in New Zealand and other states in the TPPA, not to allow what is happening in the US, to happen in our own countries", says Claire Bleakley president of GE-free NZ in food and environment.
"The agro-chemical companies have appointed themselves sheriff and jury. Their employees can enter any field and take samples of a farmer’s crop to make sure he is not growing their patented seed."
The next TPPA meeting is being held in Auckland in early December. There must be a clear rejection of an push by the US to force farmers to accept contamination or to undermine our zero- tolerance for GE protecting our GE-free exports and reputation for food safety.