“landscape clubs” (Furtan et al., 2007) and voluntary “GMO-free zones”6 (Jank et al., 2006) clearly depend on the existence of high levels of community cooperation, which could be undermined by disputes related to gene flow.

Organic Laws and Resistance to Genetic Engineering

One of the intriguing public debates that has emerged around genetic engineering in agriculture has been that regarding whether GE crops should be allowable in legal standards for organic agriculture. As discussed in Chapter 1, many organic growers have vehemently resisted the notion that GE crops should be allowable in organic agricultural production systems. However, scientific arguments can be made for the use of genetic-engineering technology for making organic agricultural production more sustainable. Ronald and Adamchak (2008) note that what is or is not an appropriate use of genetic-engineering technology for “organic” producers is problematic given that genetic-engineering techniques can be used to transfer genes within plant species as easily as between them. Genetic-engineering techniques also include the use of marker-assisted breeding wherein the genetic “fingerprint” of plants can be used to aid conventional plant breeding. These authors also note the potential for genetic-engineering technology to develop new varieties of crops that could be grown under conditions that reduce some of the adverse environmental impacts of growing food and that contribute to local food production. The rationale parallels the arguments used in discussing the potential of genetic-engineering technology for improving the productive capability of orphan crops in developing countries (Naylor et al., 2004).

The ideological divisions between those who favor and those who oppose the use of GE plants in organic production systems are complex, and in many cases concerns about safety and naturalness are connected to and mask socioeconomic concerns. An example of the complexity was the successful vote in Mendocino County, California, in 2004 to ban the local use of GE organisms in agriculture. The legal focus of the vote was on GE organisms, but it was clear, because of how genetic-engineering technology was linked to issues related to corporate versus local control of agriculture, that the technology was viewed by many of those supporting the measure as a social problem (Walsh-Dilley, 2009). Similarly,


A group of growers concerned about the organic purity of an open-pollinated field crop may come together to form a “landscape club,” a fee-based organization designed to increase their economic welfare by providing protection against contamination through gene flow from related GE crops. A zone free from genetically modified organisms (GMO-free) would provide similar protection (Jank et al., 2006).

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