What if our newest invasive species is one that started in the lab and was unleashed on an unsuspecting world despite abundant warnings from scientists and others? And what if it is not even really “natural” to begin with? And what if this new invasive species, once liberated from a controlled setting, became even more potent and more persistent in the wild? Then you would be talking about genetically modified (GM) canola, which according to a report presented Friday at the Ecological Society of America, is now growing in the wild and is busily evolving into a plant that will outstrip our best efforts to contain it. It also has the potential to cross-pollinate and swap genes with other non-GM wild plants. More than 83% of the wild canola tested by researchers traveling through North Dakota tested positive for GM genes. But this is what’s really terrifying: some of the plants tested positive for resistance to both glyphosphate (Roundup) and glusfosinate (Liberty). Commercial GM canola is resistant to either Roundup or Liberty, not both. The dual resistance evolved in the wild, after the plants had escaped. The wild canola is doing what living things do—mutating and selecting for traits that will best ensure its survival. And all without our help.
On President’s Day, the National Black Farmers Association (NBFA) concluded its cross country rally in Washington, D.C. and Animal Welfare Approved’s (AWA) legislative partner, Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), attended in support. NBFA members have spent the past month mobilizing support for the distribution of payments owed to black farmers as a part of a 1999 discrimination settlement. The settlement awarded one billion dollars to black farmers; President Obama has allocated the funds in his FY 2010 budget. The last Farm Bill seconded this verdict by allocating funds and opening doors for the approximately 80,000 farmers locked out of the original suit to have their cases heard in court.
For more than a century, black farmers have experienced discrimination and racism by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) farm lending programs, which exhibited favoritism to larger corporate agriculture interests. President Obama vowed to continue the fight for justice in his State of the Union address last month and in previous statements. “My hope is that the farmers and their families who were denied access to USDA loans and programs will be made whole and will have the chance to rebuild their lives and their businesses,” he announced in a May 6, 2009 press release. In a 1999 statement regarding the case, then Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman admitted the agency’s guilt in shutting black farmers out of farm loan and farm subsidy opportunities. NBFA President Dr. John Boyd reiterated his position on the case in a CNN news interview Sunday, February 14, 2009, “Black farmers helped to shape agriculture in the U.S. and deserve to take part in the American fabric and take part in federal programs.”
“We are pleased that President Obama has made a commitment to bringing justice to our nation’s black farmers. It is high time for Congress and the USDA to work toward equality by finally ending the illogical practice of awarding federal funds based on a farmer’s ethnicity,” said Christine Sequenzia , federal policy advisor for AWI. AWA and AWI strongly support equality for family farmers and urge Congress to uphold funds set aside by President Obama.