The True Costs of Organic Food Production

Val Giddings February 29, 2016
February 29, 2016

The Economic Research Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture has released a report titled “Economic Issues in the Coexistence of Organic, Genetically Engineered (GE), and Non-GE Crops.” It estimates the costs to producers of delivering harvests using organic methods versus “genetically engineered” seeds versus non-GE seeds, and it concludes that “In 2014, 1 percent of all U.S. certified organic farmers in 20 States reported that they experienced economic losses (amounting to $6.1 million, excluding expenses for preventative measures and testing) due to GE commingling during 2011-2014.” But the USDA report also makes clear that these "losses" are self inflicted injuries, due to organic growers' voluntarily signing contracts with conditions they have failed to meet, and for which they wrongly blame their innocent neighbors growing safe, fully approved and more sustainable crops. But as Val Giddings writes in Innovation Files, USDA fails to tally the far larger economic benefits organic growers have enjoyed from the superior control biotech crops offer for pest and weed problems, known as the "halo effect" (amounting to $2.4 billion to farmers in Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin over the course of 14 years). Perhaps it is time to consider a tax on organic growers to compensate the GE crop growing neighbors they vilify for the unearned benefits they've provided organic growers.