Members of the sustainable food movement are furious and, frankly, we have a right to be. Last month’s decision by the USDA to fully deregulate GE alfalfa isn’t just a minor skirmish in a long and exhausting battle. It threatens the existence of organic farming and organic food, and flies in the face of USDA’s mandate from Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act to promote and preserve organic agriculture.
The biotech industry loves to talk about how safe and beneficial GE technology is, and regardless of where your opinion lands on those claims, the simple fact is this: GE is not allowed in USDA organic certification. Period. GE contamination of conventional and organic crops is not a myth. It’s a fact. Just look at the gene flow contamination of corn and soy. Deregulating yet another crop, particularly one that could have an enormous impact on organic dairy farming, undermines the future of organics. “Contamination of organic and traditional crops by recently deregulated, genetically modified alfalfa is inevitable,” the Associated Press reported Monday, citing mainstream agricultural experts.
But organic agriculture not only has a right under Congressional mandate to exist, it has earned the right to thrive. Organic is the fastest growing segment of agriculture in the United States. Hundreds of thousands of consumers have voiced their feelings about organics and GE contamination. I’d love for someone to point me toward a compilation of U.S. consumers clamoring for GE food. We’ve certainly heard resistance from consumers in our foreign markets around the world.
Tensions following USDA’s action have run high as members of the organic industry reacted to the news. Now, sustainable agriculture advocates including National Cooperative Grocers Association, Organic Valley, Stonyfield, and organic champion Maria Rodale are calling for organizations to “stand together in opposition to GE alfalfa.” As we regroup and redouble our efforts to protect organic agriculture, these unifying messages are more important than ever. The USDA’s decision last week was a tremendous setback, but the fight is far from over.
In order to preserve organics, the sustainable food movement must unite. Here’s what each of us should do today to take action on this issue:
- Let the White House know that organic food has a right to exist and thrive, and that you do not support the deregulation of GE alfalfa or any crop, by signing this petition.
- Support organizations like the Center for Food Safety (CFS) as they raise funds for legal action against the USDA’s deregulation of GE alfalfa. CFS and others have legal grounds to contest the USDA’s Environmental Impact Statement assessment as being incomplete. While Monsanto has billions in lobbying funds, the sustainable food movement has legal precedent on its side. Let’s support groups who aim to take the USDA to court. You can also sign up to receive CFS action alerts here.
- Continue to support the farms and processors that bring us organics. Although growing, organic is still a small part of the agricultural industry. By increasing our market power, we can have a greater impact in Washington and throughout the nation. Let’s vote with our dollars.
- Continue to demand that the USDA and Congress protect farmers and consumers from the risks of GE crops, products, and ingredients. Farmers have the right to use organic farming methods and should be protected from losses due to GE contamination. GE-free seed programs must be developed. Long-term research on the implications of GE crops must be conducted. Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, and to make informed decisions about what they choose to eat. These fundamental principles are part of a seven-point plan National Organic Coalition created to provide clarity and focus for the organic movement on this issue.
By uniting around common goals, the sustainable food movement has established an organic standard with high integrity; one that includes certification, accreditation, and consumer labeling. We must continue fighting for organic protections. We must demand that our government recognize organic’s right to exist and thrive.