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Agricultural News


Vermont Dairy Farmer Tells House Ag Committee about Biotechnology's Benefits to Consumer

Tue, 24 Mar 2015 12:14:07 CDT

Vermont Dairy Farmer Tells House Ag Committee about Biotechnology’s Benefits to Consumer The added costs imposed by mandatory labeling for genetically-modified organisms could increase the price of food to consumers while driving smaller farms out of business, according to Vermont dairy farmer Joanna Lidback, who said that the use of GMO crops is important to her farm's economic sustainability.


In testimony presented Tuesday before the House Agriculture Committee, Lidback, who farms in Westmore, Vermont, with her husband and two young sons, said that building an economically viable small family business has led them to "fully embrace using technology to farm better and with less impact on our surroundings" and part of that entails using GMO seed varieties that grow best in New England.


"We would want the choice of the best seed regardless of breeding technology; genetic engineering offers the best options," she said, explaining that their 200 acre farm in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom has a shorter growing season that limits the variety of crops they can grow. If marketplace demands were to force them to use non-GMO feed grains most of which would be certified organic the farm's feed bill would more than double each month, from $5,328 to $12,000.


"I do not see how we could profitably farm in the long term with those increased feed costs," Lidback said. "I also believe that biotechnology enables us to lessen the environmental impact that growing can have because less fertilizer and pesticides are used to grow an abundant crop."


Lidback testified on behalf of Agri-Mark Dairy Cooperative, which is a member of both the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and the National Milk Producers Federation. Lidback keeps a blog documenting her family's life on the farm (farmlifelove.com).


She told the committee's members that attempts at mandatory labeling of foods derived from GMO processes are aimed at arbitrarily limiting choices, for farmers and consumers alike. She said that consumers have a right to know "that the meals they serve at the family dining table every night are safe and nutritious. But a very small percentage of the population should not be able to impose their personal, non-science based food preferences on the rest of us prompting food prices to increase and driving farms like mine out of business."


Lidback said that mandatory labels on foods with biotech ingredients are not necessary, but that "if consumers are to drive some sort of label requirement, I believe it should be done in a cohesive way at the federal level." Lidback said that consumers who want information about how their food is sourced can get information from companies using voluntary labeling systems, including the USDA's Certified Organic program and the use of third-party verification of a "Non-GMO" label.


She said a patchwork quilt of state laws, whereby some states such as Vermont impose labeling requirements that neighboring states do not, would raise questions "about whether or not the product is the same. This serves no one's interest not consumers, not farmers, not food producers."

   

 

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