Disagrees with Baldwin about GMO rice situation

In response to the Oct. 19 article “Time for GMO technology advance” by Dr. Ford Baldwin, myself and many other rice farmers disagree with most of this article.

  1. The huge negative financial impact to farmers, seed growers, and seed dealers was minimized. This loss isn't simply going to go away because we want to forget it or put it behind us and move forward! Not just the direct financial impact but the other problems such as loss of important varieties, crop rotation problems and more were not mentioned at all.

  2. The impact of farmers being forced to sell on a deadline in a market that could have been better in time. Also the expense of clean up that farmers were and are forced to do was not mentioned, but yet the mills have no such sell deadline or no formal clean up program that they have to adhere to.

  3. There was no mention of the very real and present danger of Pharma Rice (which IS NOT food grade grain because of the human gene in it). This material is currently being grown in Kansas. Even though APHIS had approximately 1,000-to-1 negative public comment responses, APHIS still granted the permit to grow it. If an accident happened with this GMO we could lose the entire crop! There wouldn't be just a discount, the farmer would lose it all, you can't even sell it for animal food.

  4. With regards to APHIS not finding anything, it isn't a surprise to me either, but for different reasons than Dr. Baldwin's. Read The USDA's Inspector General Audit (50601-8-te) which indicates APHIS deficient in many areas of control and monitoring the GMO industry. Also it would be interesting to look at the staff in APHIS and their history of employment.

  5. Then there was no mention of the (4) Bayer GMO rice test plots that were planted in the rice belt here in Arkansas this year. APHIS can't tell us what happened, how it happened, or much at all about this event but yet we go forward with outdoor research putting a $900 million rice crop at risk. A rush to bring a product to market without proper consideration for the people most at risk is unconscionable.

The article said we need the technology and most rice growers will agree that GMO can bring many benefits, but the first consideration has to be AT WHAT COST. Before we look too far into the possibilities the future might hold we have to first think about the safety of what we have right here right now. Until the market fully accepts this technology or the GM companies put up sufficient liability insurance then we can't go skipping along hand in hand down this GMO road.

When we have taken such drastic measures to get a market back, what kind of message are we sending to the EU when we say let's go forward with GMO work.

In closing, many feel like there should be full disclosure of an author's other business connections and income sources so individuals reading articles can determine for themselves the impartiality of that article.
John B. Alter
Rice Grower, Member ARGA, Member Rice Research and Promotion Board, Member USRPA Board

Wetlands Reserve Program funds in new farm bill

Since humans colonized the South, we have continually drained, filled and destroyed millions of acres of wetlands to make room for development and agriculture. Fortunately, state and federal governments, nonprofit organizations, private landowners and many others have worked to restore wetlands to the landscape. One federal program that has had significant impacts in the South is the Wetlands Reserve Program, a voluntary, incentive-based program for landowners, farmers and ranchers that has been part of every farm bill since 1990.

Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi lead the nation in acres enrolled in the WRP. From 1994 to present, 190,401 acres in Arkansas and 160,352 acres in Mississippi were conserved through the program, while Louisiana leads the nation with 218,687 acres enrolled in the program since 1992.

Wetlands protect homes, farms and businesses from catastrophic flooding. Wetlands filter runoff water, reduce sediments in rivers and recharge ground water. Wetlands provide habitat for wildlife and places for people to hunt, fish and enjoy the outdoors.

In Arkansas, this program is used to create wetlands that filter farm runoff and decrease the amount of fertilizer nutrients that reach the Mississippi and Red rivers. Excess nutrients in the rivers eventually end up in the Gulf of Mexico and contribute to the “dead zone” that forms annually and negatively affects commercial and recreational fisheries.

In the delta of Mississippi and Louisiana, several partners including Ducks Unlimited use the Wetlands Reserve Program to restore frequently flooded bottomland hardwood forests. Returning these forests to the landscape not only benefits waterfowl but also provides habitat for the endangered Louisiana black bear. In fact, Mississippi saw its first documented black bear birth in 30 years on a Wetland Reserve Program project site in 2006.

Farm bill conservation provisions directly benefit wetlands of coastal Louisiana where an area of wetlands the size of a football field is lost every 38 minutes. Coastal Louisiana wetlands protect important energy industry infrastructure in addition to providing continentally important fish and wildlife habitat.

The WRP is in jeopardy and needs our support if we are to see it funded at levels equal to or above that of the 2002 farm bill. Currently, funding and allocation of 250,000 acres per year is not sufficient to meet landowner demand for enrollment in the program.

Congress is deciding the future of farm policy now as they debate the 2007 farm bill. Lawmakers are exploring funding options for several conservation provisions and everyone who is concerned about the loss of wetlands and the benefits they provide to society needs to contact their senators and encourage them to support WRP funding for at least 250,000 acres per year for the next 10 years.

If we do not invest in conservation today, our children and grandchildren will pay for our mistakes tomorrow.
Curtis Hopkins
Director, Ducks Unlimited Southern
Regional Office

www.ducks.org/farmbill