Maine Organic Farmers Push Against GMOs 

“We have approximately an 800-acre diversified farm near Bangor and we use organic growing practices for our vegetables.”

Joan and Brian, of Milky Way Organic Farm in Levant, do not believe in using genetically modified seeds.

“For our own farm we usually use either our own manure or for the vegetables we use organic fertilizer, certified organic fertilizer and we use certified organic pest control.”

But they say its likely GMOs are in the supply they feed their cows.

“We had no choice with the grain that we feed our cattle.  We can’t afford organic grain and I wonder how organic it really is because again you’ve got pollen drift from GMO corn to conventional corn and there’s no way that you could ever prevent that.”

Pollen drift is something several Maine farmer’s could face.

“We understand the biology involved because pollen will go off site and what we’re concerned about as seed growers and organic growers is that genetically engineered pollen will come on to our farm and contaminate our crops and ruin them,” says Jim Gerritsen of Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater.

Farmers like Gerritsen say the problem expands when it comes to specified seeds. One example is biotechnology powerhouse Monsanto – they have patents to several GMO seeds, meaning that their inadvertent use on unauthorized farms could create legal complications.

“We should have legal rights to our food and the idea of patenting a seed or a gene is like trying to patent the sun. it’s not right.”

“It’s not fair, we’re the innocent victims, we shouldn’t have to defend ourselves in court from a very aggressive patent protected company like Monsanto.”

But Gerritsen and other organic growers did take this matter to court, suing Monsanto in 2011.  Gerritsen says the final ruling by U.S. Court of Appeals for the federal circuit in Washington D.C. Came in June 2013. In that decision the court ordered Monsanto not to sue farms that had 1% or less contamination.

“We consider this a partial victory we are grateful that the court of appeals agreed with our basic position but we wish that we had received the full protection that family farmers deserve.”

Despite political and economic challenges, Gerritsen says organic farming has great potential in the future.

“I think organic farming excels in benefits for the people, for the environment, and for the planet. And taken in that way I think organic has a natural advantage as to when its looked at objectively.”

In April Gerritsen presented at the United Nations in New York City on why organic agriculture is a sustainable system.  To see the first part of the series focused on consumers and GMO-labeling, click here.