Quiet Oaks, Iowa has recently been rattled. At a 4-H meeting that was
supposed to be an orderly election of next year's president, two kids
got into a shoving match. And this wasn't the town's first altercation,
either. The parents of each--Jessica Bransen and Jacob Miller--had been
seen having a number of public arguments at the grocery store, and had
disrupted a PTA meeting with their bitter comments to each other, too.
It seems like the whole town has taken sides, everyone standing with
their friends and against everyone else.
What's caused the fuss in this small farm community? Miller, an organic farmer, recently took a sample of his seed for a routine test to ensure that it was completely natural. He was shocked to find out that his crop was contaminated. Pollen of Minsento Seed Company brand Bt corn--genetically engineered to produce its own insecticide--had apparently fertilized his crop. Miller then turned to his neighbor of five years, Bransen, who is the only farmer in the area growing Minsento Bt corn. Miller is accusing Bransen of allowing the pollen from her corn to spread over his field and ruin his crop. Bransen claims that she was just doing her job and that if Miller wants to grow organic crops, he needs to take the proper precautions to ensure they remain free of outside pollen.
Mitchell Doyle, leader of the Quiet Oaks chapter of 4-H and respected citizen in the town, decided after the fight at the election that enough was enough. Determined to reach some sort of a resolution of this conflict, Doyle did some basic research on organic and GMO farming, previous cases of contamination, and some of the options that could be used to settle this case. He visited both Miller and Bransen and recorded their statements of the incident. He also made some phone calls to Minsento, the seed company that supplied Bransen with her Bt corn seed. Doyle requested a statement from the company regarding the incident; he instead received a brochure for the company. But, using his contacts as a 4-H president, he was eventually able to convince Minsento to send a representative to Quiet Oaks.
The four (Bransen, Miller, Doyle and the Minsento representative) will meet in the town hall next Tuesday to debate and, hopefully, decide the issue.