Possibly more important in the long run than California’s vote on whether genetically modified foods should be labeled–which might not pass muster with federal courts anyway–will be the recommendations of USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture.
Created in 2003, the so-called AC21 Committee, whose current members are appointed by Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, met for 2 days earlier this week as per its mandate to resolving conflicts between genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered crops.
Jerry Hagstrom, editor and publisher of The Hagstrom Report, reports that the AC21 Committee may have reached a consensus during its sessions this week in Washington, D.C., but the wraps are being kept on a any final report until after the Nov. 6 general election.
Hagstrom, who provided his subscribers with some draft of recommendations that were focused on compensation mechanisms that would come into play where one grower’s seeds negatively impacted another’s.
This week’s meetings constituted the last plenary session for AC21. USDA staff is writing the final report for distribution to AC21 members on Oct. 23. Members will have until Nov. 8, two days after the election, to decide whether to add their name to “the consensus.”
USDA’s website says: “Under its Charter, the (AC21) committee is charged with examining the long-term impacts of biotechnology on the U.S. food and agriculture system and USDA, and providing guidance to USDA on pressing individual issues, identified by the Office of the Secretary, related to the application of biotechnology in agriculture.”
In addition to compensation schemes, the AC21 committee has looked at insurance and coexistence plans. The 23-member committee is said to include a broad array of agricultural interests.
AC21 has stepped up its meetings during the last year, gathering for half a dozen 2-day sessions, trying to work out differences among its members and suggest policies of coexistence for agriculture.