Tom Stahl, 4th generation Washington State Wheat Farmer, who resides in Brown’s Canyon, Douglas County on the land that his grandfather first homesteaded in 1883, supports Washington State Label GMOs I-522. And, he is uniquely qualified to weigh in on this issue as Tom is not only a 4th generation Washington State wheat farmer but also an attorney.
“ I have a family traditional interest in being here and seeing this way of life continue and want to be able to continue to do what my father, parents, grandparents and great-grandparents did” stated Tom, during a phone interview. “I see GMOs moving into our cropland and taking over our various crops and commodities and I see that as a threat. Small and medium-sized farmers one of these days won’t be there because of the economic damage this is going to do to us.”
Tom clearly states that he is not an environmentalist and describes himself as “more on the conservative side.” One of the reasons that he likes to talk about this issue is that he “wants to let people know…when you are talking about an issue like this (GMOs), people will just assume you are say an environmentalist, a big city dweller, that you’re left wing and I’m not any of those things.”
In fact, Tom’s strong belief in the potential damage that the introduction of GMO wheat could do to Washington State’s wheat industry has led him to let his membership in the Washington State Wheat Growers Association lapse because they will not take a stand on the GMO issue.
Tom explains that 85-90% of the wheat grown in Washington State is for the export market. Over 62 countries now either ban GMO crops or require that they be labeled. If mandatory GMO labeling is not adopted and GM wheat is grown in Washington State, the Washington State wheat farmers market will be directly affected.
As Tom says; “ I can’t farm without my markets” and those markets don’t allow GM wheat. I-522 is proactive in that it will require labeling and allow farmers to prepare for changes that will occur if and when GM wheat is introduced. Tom references the Western Organization of Resource Councils website for more information on the anticipated market effects of introducing GMO wheat.
The need to get farmers and non-farmers east of the Cascades to support I-522 is something Tom stresses because without their support, passage of I-522 will be difficult. He describes these folks as a “little bit more individualistic and a little bit more live and let live” and says that “country boys don’t like authority, don’t like to be pushed around… and the corporations are trying to put food on your plate that you might not want “. So folks are voting for the right to say NO and to preserve their freedom to say NO to something they don’t want.
Lastly, the lawyer in Tom takes offense to what he describes as an “Illogical paradox where these things (GMOs) have been released under the FDA substantial equivalence standard”. Why are GMOs patented if they are considered to be “substantially equivalent to non-GMOs”? The FDA ruling for the safety of GMO’s, is that based upon what Monsanto has told the FDA, the FDA finds that GMOs are substantially equivalent to non-GMOs. So why does Monsanto need a patent for something that is the same? Patents, by definition, are awarded for something “New, useful and non-obvious.” This is the illogical paradox.
Tom closes with a nod to the power of the consumer. He thinks its best for consumers to gradually reject GMOs over a 3 -4 year period rather than all at once. That way markets and farmers will have a chance to adjust.
Listen to the entire unedited phone interview with Tom Stahl: MP3 (58 minutes)
Michael Hart, a conventional livestock family farmer, has been farming in Cornwall for nearly thirty years and has actively campaigned on behalf of family farmers for over fifteen years, travelling extensively in Europe, India, Canada and the USA.
In this twenty-three minute documentary, he investigates the reality of farming genetically modified crops in the USA ten years after their introduction. He travels across the US interviewing farmers and other specialists about their experiences of growing GM. (More Information)