A conflict has arisen in east Iceland over the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, to which organic farmers in the region are opposed.
Farmers in the northeastern Iceland region of Fljótsdalshérað who grow organic barley told RÚV that they feel threatened by the prospect of GM barley being planted in the region. Experiments are already underway to grow regular barley in the nursery Barra, and if things go well, the plan is to then plant GM barley.
Organic farmers in the region oppose the idea, as they worry about cross-pollination, as well as mutations that could occur in micro-organisms in the soil who attempt to deal with the GM crops, rendering organic crops more vulnerable to agricultural pathogens.
Orf Genetics, the company behind the GM grain, told reporters that the crops are safe and will not harm other grains in the area. However, only 20 kilometres away is the company Mother Earth (Móðir jörð) which grows organic vegetables and barley. They say that their concerns have been unanswered by anyone associated with the Barra project.
Eygló Björk Ólafsdóttir, a farmer from the area, told RÚV that Orf has to prove that their crops cannot cross-pollinate with others or have an otherwise negative effect on the ecosystem of the area before they will be allowed to do any planting. She adds that the prospect of GM farming in the area has been unexplored, and there are still many unanswered questions.