The end of organic crops?

What you sow isn't always what you reap

Feature story - 5 April, 2006
"This year I will again sow maize. But if it is again contaminated [with genetically engineered maize] I will abandon the growing of organic maize. It is obvious that I cannot carry on my shoulders the episodes of contamination like these, year after year."

Spanish farmers burn organic crops contaminated with genetically engineered maize.

This chilling statement came from Enric Navarro, an organic maize[corn] grower from Girona in Spain whose farm has been dedicated toorganic maize cultivation for the last four years. This year his cropwas contaminated by genetically engineered [GE] maize.  He doesn'tknow where it came from.  It could have been from any non-organicfield, quite literally, anywhere on the wind.

When GE crops are allowed to "coexist" in the open with organic crops, what you sow isn't always what you reap.

Enricchose to burn nearly two-thirds of his organic maize crop after testingrevealed up to 12.6 percent of it was contaminated with GE, rather thansell his crop at a premium through the organic market.

He followed his conscience. He suffered a massive economic loss.

Andhe isn't alone. Other organic farmers have burned their crops ratherthan allow them to further contaminate the Spanish maize market.

Enric Navarro

"Iwouldn't be able to sleep at night if I got into the conventionalmarket with contaminated maize. Even though I know that there arethousands of hectares of GE maize and that our food chain is floodedwith it, I felt I could at least intervene in stopping my ownproduction. This act was done to publicly denounce the situation we arecurrently living with here in Cataluña with GE." Said Enric.

Thechoice facing his home region is clear to Enric: "If Cataluña abandonsGE, I will continue to make organic maize. If not the organic maizewill disappear. That simple. That sad."

More stories like Enric's are highlighted in a new report, ' Impossible Coexistence,'which was recently released by Greenpeace and two Spanish NGOs,Assemblea Pagesa and civil society group 'Plataforma Trangènics Fora!'.The report documents Spain's reckless adoption of geneticallyengineered maize and the subsequent disasters that have befallen manyof the conventional and organic farmers in two of the main GE growingregions Aragón and Cataluña.

A conference on so-called coexistence is underway in Vienna where EU delegates will decide on the future of GE cultivation.

Economiclosses like Enric's are a grim reminder of why countries should closethe door to genetic pollution, especially as consumers do not want itand markets are closed to this unsafe technology.

Enric hadthis advice to the politicians: "To solve the GE problem and itssocial, environmental and health implications, the only option is tonot cultivate a type of crop that the citizens do not want."

We agree.

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