Where will the money come from? That’s a good question. Perhaps farmers who use biotechnology will be forced to pay a special fee. Or maybe consumers will face a new tax on grocery-store food with biotech ingredients. Or possibly taxpayers in general will foot the bill. The only certainty is that it will cost a bundle.

We’ve seen this before in agriculture. In 1999, the federal government settled a class-action lawsuit filed by minority farmers, agreeing to pay $1 billion to make up for past discrimination. I followed the story in the news but didn’t examine it in detail, so I don’t have an opinion on the merits of the case. At the time, however, everybody thought it was over and done with.

Then, two years ago, Washington opened the spending spigot once more, committing an additional $1.25 billion to minority farmers who had missed the deadline to join the initial class-action lawsuit. The cost of the original settlement more than doubled and the whole thing reeked of politics.

More of the same may lie ahead. Does anyone doubt that trial lawyers will launch a third attempt to pry loose another billion from taxpayers? They’ve already filed lawsuits on behalf of Hispanic farmers and female farmers, hoping to expand the class of victims beyond African Americans.

The same thing would happen with a system of reparations involving biotechnology. Before long, everybody who grows organic crops–from industrial-scale farmers to backyard gardeners–would feel the urge to file a claim for damages. Costs would spiral out of control, but neither the quality nor the safety of food would improve.

Turnabout is fair play, so biotech growers should seek poetic justice. After all, organic farms often fail to control their weeds. If the seeds from these weeds “contaminate” the fields of biotech farmers, then perhaps the biotech farmers should receive their own reparations.

Of course, that would be ridiculous.

Our trading partners must gaze on in bewilderment. For years, U.S. officials have proclaimed, appropriately, the wonders of biotech crops, encouraging other countries not only to buy what we grow but also to adopt the technology for themselves. And now we find ourselves locked in a destructive internal debate about “contamination.”

People say that sunshine is the best disinfectant. Maybe we should add that common sense is the best decontaminant.

John Rigolizzo, Jr. is a fifth generation farmer, raising fresh vegetables and field corn in southern New Jersey. The family farm produces for retail and wholesale markets.  John is a volunteer board member of Truth About Trade & Technology (www.truthabouttrade.org)