The following is what we have said in response to many e-mail inquiries and questions we have received from Cornucopia members, food cooperatives and others in the organic community:
The three companies in question decided to split with most of the organizations in the organic community, like Cornucopia, that recommended not approving genetically engineered alfalfa for release.
They favored a compromise that would have attempted to protect organic farmers through new regulations allowing for “coexistence.” We unfortunately feel, along with our scientific advisers, alfalfa seed producers and farmers, that coexistence is impossible and we would’ve ended up with widespread genetic contamination.
Although we did not agree with their ill-conceived approach I would not say that they “sided with Monsanto.” And in the end the USDA was not willing to make any compromises.
Sadly, who knows how many comments could have been received by the White House, asking the president to ban genetically engineered alfalfa, if these companies, with hundreds of thousands of followers via e-mail and social networking, would’ve worked with the rest of the organic community.
Although USDA Secretary Vilsack said this was not politically possible, he reports to the President. And if Mr. Obama had felt enough heat he might have thought twice about the political implications of approval.
Cornucopia will aggressively pursue possible additional legal action against the USDA to block the release of genetically engineered alfalfa.
In the meantime, the only thing we can all do, as farmers or consumers, is contact the White House and ask Mr. Obama, and the first lady, to think about the benefits their own organic garden has for their children and to overturn this corporate-friendly ruling.
We respect the work of the Organic Consumers Association, and understand why its leadership and members feel so aggrieved. But we do not support boycotting Stonyfield, Whole Foods or Organic Valley. That would seriously injure the many family-scale farmers who supply those brands.
We certainly don’t believe that the CEOs of these organic giants were intentionally doing anything to injure the organic movement. Hopefully this will serve as a lesson to all of us—we are all smarter when working together.
Mark A. Kastel, Codirector