Sunday, November 02, 2008

Beet Beat: In The Wind

In a very well-written story, Oregonian reporter Scott Learn picked up on the subject I posted about last February on the danger to Oregon's organic beet and chard growers from GMO sugar beets. Titled "Oregon's Organic Farmers Fight Genetically Modified Seeds," Learn lays out the issues that led to a lawsuit filed by a consortium of organic-seed growers, organic farmers, and environmental and consumer groups to stop the growing of so-called Round-Up Ready sugar beet seeds.

As I wrote in a summary on the issue for, the lawsuit alleges that wind-blown pollen from these GMO beets could contaminate nearby crops of conventional sugar beets as well as other closely related crops, such as chard and table beets, and harm the burgeoning organic farming and organic seed-production industries in the valley.

The availability of organic chard and table beets at farmers’ markets and stores could also be affected if the produce is found to be contaminated by cross-pollination (or outcrossing) between the GMO beets and nearby fields of organic vegetables. A European Union study conducted in 2001 found that wind-blown sugar-beet pollen could be detected up to five miles from its source. The state of Oregon only requires three miles of isolation between GMO fields and non-GMO fields.

The Oregonian's Learn also spoke to seedsman and activist Frank Morton, whom I profiled for Edible Portland magazine.

"'Who's responsible if it isn't on a leash?' says Morton, sunburned, earnest and blunt. 'I'm a certified organic seed grower, and if (his crops) were to get contaminated with any detectable amount of transgenic sugar beet pollen, my product becomes worthless.'"

Read the other posts in the series: The Beet Beat, The Fight Begins in Earnest, The Wheels of Justice, The Wheels of Justice, Part 2.

Photo of threshing organic chard for its seed at Gathering Together Farm in Philomath, Oregon, by

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