GMO threat increases costs, decreases options for ND organic farmer

Genetically modified crops threaten the livelihoods of organic farmers through seed contamination, cross pollination of organic crops, and commingling in grain handling.

“$70,000 in the hole”
However, GM crops are causing other, not so obvious problems for organic farmers. A good example is Jack Olson, an organic farmer in Litchville, North Dakota. Olson, who grows organic soybeans, wheat, and other crops, had to purchase a combine and a semi-trailer to harvest and transport his organic soybeans because contract operators didn’t want to go through the extra steps of cleaning their equipment to prevent GMO commingling.

“I’m $70,000 in the hole because of buying the combine and semi trailer,” says Olson. He had previously hired someone to combine his fields, but the operator didn’t want to wait while Olson cleaned and purged the combine to ensure it contained no GM soybeans. “Custom operators just want to bring the combine into the field and work. It’s illogical for them to wait for me to clean and purge their combine; they’re losing money,” says Olson. He also says they don’t like him touching their equipment.

Olson began to face the same challenge with truckers he hired to transport his soybeans to a processing facility. “Truckers don’t want to clean their semi and dry it down for one load of soybeans,” he says. But as with the combine, trucks need to be cleaned to make sure no GM material mixed with the organic soybeans.

So, instead of dealing with custom combine and truck operators, Olson purchased his own equipment.

GM crop production has also limited Olson’s farming production options; he doesn’t grow corn or canola due to the cross pollination threat from GM varieties. “I would love to grow organic corn but I can’t. Corn is $12 per bushel,” he says. Olson also says that if GM wheat had been approved for production, it would have “shut me down as an organic farmer. It’s hard for one organic farmer to fight Monsanto,” he says.

Still, Olson puts up with the inconveniences because he is committed to organic production. “At least we’re clean, that’s why we grow organic. It’s God’s way,” he says.

© Copyright The Organic & Non-GMO Report October 2007