Can all three
forms of farming co-exist? And, if not, why not?
One US farmer seems to have little difficulty. On his 600 acre farm in Knoxville, Iowa, Mr Jim Petersen, no strong advocate for any particular form of farming, manages all the three forms with a buffer zone that separates the organic crops from conventional and GM ones.
At the recent Biotechnology Industry Organisation meeting, he explained how he did it. Until 2002, he was growing equal amounts of conventional and GM crops on the 400 acres he then cultivated. An opportunity arose to farm an additional 169 acres on condition that organic methods were used; Mr Petersen agreed and, in 2003, began cultivating organic oats and some soybean using a 25-foot strip for corn and grass to act as buffer for the soya. "I am not in the export market and, therefore, am not certain about its prospects," he said.
“First”, he said, “we planted oats in March, then we went in for conventional and GM corn in April. In early May, we planted conventional and GM-soya and, in the middle of May, we planted organic corn and followed it up with organic soya.”
In 2003, he couldn't clear the weeds in the fields where organic crops were sown and that affected production. But the other crops gave him a good yield. Last year, he got good results from all the three.
Mr Fred Yodder, a former president of the US National Corn Growers Association, sympathised: “It is not difficult for different forms of farming to co-exist, provided the neighbouring farmers are taken into confidence. You have to base things on science primarily," he said.
Co-existence of all the three forms of farming was confirmed by Drew L. Kershen of the College of Law, University of Oklahoma. “Farmers will have to have the choice to use the technology they think the best. Studies show that, even with pure hybrids, there is about 2% of broken and foreign material. In the global market, there is an allowance of 2% and this can ensure peaceful co-existence of all sorts of farming in any part of the world.”
Quoting a study of the Organic Farm Research Fund of the US, he said that 92% of organic farmers faced no problem from GM crops. But 4% of the farmers said they had suffered loss in terms of market price due to the contract they had entered into with the buyers. “The conflict is more where the tolerance level is zero," he said.
It is an accepted norm that speciality producers should bear costs to implement measures to avoid foreign or GM material to get premium for their produce. “Even the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements has issued a guideline that says organic certification does not imply that a produce is free of genetic material. The certification can guarantee a product without genetic material but not in totality. Therefore, when sellers or growers sign a contract, it is necessary that they keep these things in mind," Professor Kershen said. "Growers should understand that they get paid for production protection and not for purity."
M.R. Subramani (27 June, 2005). Where conventional, organic, GM farms co-exist. Business Line (http://www.thehindubusinessline.com/2005/06/28/stories/2005062800621000.htm)