Tester says U.S. agriculture policy, genetically modified crops hurt family farms

Billings Gazette

by Tom Lutey

Misguided federal farm policies and genetically modified crops are undermining family farm security, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said at a high-profile food conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C.

Sharing a Georgetown University stage with Prince Charles and "Fast Food Nation" author Eric Schlosser, Tester told the audience that federal farm programs favoring some crops over others had undermined farm diversity. Those policies, along with an ever-shrinking group of buyers for farm products were making it harder for family farms to get by, he said.

"Over the past 100 years, we've seen far less diversity as far as crop rotations go and far less diversity and competition as far as marketing our crops," Tester said at the Future of Food conference.

But Tester reserved his sharpest criticisms for patented, genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, which he said undermine plant diversity and take seed ownership from farmers for the first time in history.

"With GMOs, farmers don't control the seed, multinational agribusiness does," Tester said. "You and I have heard over and over that our only hope to feed the planet as our population grows is GMOs. Well, I'm here to tell you I don't buy it. What it has done, and what it continues to do, is take away options from family farmers and options away from consumers. Farms won't be able to control seeds, and you won't know what you're eating."