Former Ag Secretary John Block Weighs in on “Coexistence” at USDA

Terry D. Etherton

As I have written in previous blogs posted on Terry Etherton Blog on Biotechnology, a “firestorm” has erupted in response to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s idea of calling for producers of GM, non-GM and organic crops to “coexist”.  This issue flared up after USDA issued its environmental impact statement on Roundup Ready alfalfa in December, 2010 when Mr.  Vilsack convened a “stakeholder” meeting (December 20) of proponents and opponents of the biotechnology to “talk it out”.

Representative Colin Peterson (D-MN), the past Chair of the House Agriculture Committee, recently weighed in about the “firestorm” in the January 5 issue of the Agri-Pulse Newsletter.

Asked about Sec. Tom Vilsack’s push to hold meetings on coexistence, Peterson says that, “in general I think that if you can get people to talk together, you’re going to be better off. Having said that, some of these folks who are against biotech are anything but reasonable. It may be like trying to deal with Iran. They have an agenda that’s not based on science. It’s based on emotions and disinformation and it’s probably used to raise money for them and so forth. So dealing with those kinds of people, I’m not sure is helpful and productive.”

…and former Agriculture Secretary John Block (he was in office from 1981 to 1986) shared his perspectives about “coexistence” in his January 6, 2011  radio show “Reports from Washington”.  Here is the transcript of the report (to listen to Mr. Block’s comments about GE Crops Under Attack, please click here):

“GE Crops Under Attack”

Hello everybody out there in farm country.

And now for today’s commentary—

I remember as a boy hoeing weeds in our corn fields and pulling weeds in the bean fields. I recall the plant damage that our corn suffered from root worms and corn bore. Along came biotechnology and genetically engineered seeds. The weeds are gone and the corn stands straight and strong.

We have been successfully utilizing this remarkable technology to increase our farming efficiency and productivity for nearly 20 years. We have 60 million acres of GE corn and soybeans in the U.S. today. Countries all over the world are ramping up their use of genetic engineering to increase yield.

Environmental groups can’t stand to see modern agriculture prosper. They would like for us to farm as we did when I was a boy.

Two law suits threaten our industry – beets and alfalfa, and that’s just the beginning. The Center for Food Safety sued USDA back in 2006 to stop the distribution of a Round Up Ready alfalfa. After all these years with no hint of harm from GE crops, no danger to humans or livestock, the USDA appears to be unwilling to issue a stamp of approval for Round Up Ready Alfalfa. This nuisance litigation has USDA frozen in place. Secretary Vilsack seems to be trying to pacify the anti-biotech activist crowd by suggesting that perhaps there could be a minimum planting distance between GE alfalfa and organic alfalfa.

This is the “camel’s nose under the tent.” Can you just imagine all of the tiny organic gardens all over the country that could threaten all of our GE crops? Not just alfalfa or sugar beets but corn, soy bean, cotton, on and on. The regulatory result could be devastating.

The anti-biotech crowd refuses to acknowledge the scientifically proven safety of biotech crops. They don’t care. They don’t care if our food output could be cut by 1/3 or more. They ignore the inevitable surge in the cost of food and global starvation that could occur.

Write, call, E-mail your Congressmen and your State Ag Commissioner, unless you want to go back to farming as I did as a boy.

In closing, I would encourage you to access my website which archives my radio commentaries dating back 10 years and will go back 20 years when complete. Check on what I said back then. Go to


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