The Cornucopia Institute recently reported on troubling comments made by USDA Under Secretary Ibach at a House Agriculture Subcommittee meeting regarding the possibility of gene editing in organic.
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Dear Under Secretary Ibach and House Agriculture Subcommittee,
USDA Under Secretary Greg Ibach recently made comments before the House Agriculture Subcommittee suggesting it is time to discuss the possible allowance of certain gene-editing methods within organic production.
We vehemently disagree.
The organic marketplace is premised on being free from genetic modification. Ibach’s statements, in specific reference to gene-editing technology that alters only a plant’s existing genome, may have been an attempt to test the organic waters for acceptance.
But organic consumers do not want gene-edited food. In a 2017 survey conducted by Natural Grocers, 70% of respondents said they buy organic specifically to avoid GMOs. The organic label promises food produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, without antibiotics or other harmful pharmaceuticals, and without genetic engineering.
Ignoring the fundamental intent of the USDA organic label renders it meaningless and threatens the $52.5 billion industry.
Additionally, gene-editing techniques are not needed to resolve problems resulting from drought, pest resistance, and other challenges within our foodsheds. Traditional breeding techniques have been effective for centuries. When appropriately funded, the science behind selective breeding and other traditional techniques has exponentially improved.
Instead of inviting chemical and biotechnology companies into organic agriculture, the USDA and House Agriculture Subcommittee should provide farmers the financial support they need to develop new cultivars that are not genetically engineered.
The survival of the USDA organic label depends on farmers dedicated to the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) standards that were adopted and codified into federal law in 1990 and have been clarified by the National Organic Standards Board since then. Consumers rely on the organic label to find food produced under OFPA’s environmental and humane standards and free of genetic modification. We will not tolerate the intrusion of genetic engineering into organic production.
We urge the House Agricultural Subcommittee to take these concerns seriously.
The Cornucopia Institute Board of Directors
– Cameron Molberg, President (New Growth Management)
– Helen Kees, Vice President (Wheatfield Hill Organics)
– Goldie Caughlan, Secretary (Retired from PCC Natural Markets and former NOSB member)
– Kevin Engelbert (Engelbert Farms and former NOSB member)
– Jim Crawford (New Morning Farm)
The Cornucopia Institute Staff
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Organizations that have signed on:
Californians for Pesticide Reform
Fair World Project
Institute for Responsible Technology
Moms Across America
Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
Pesticide Action Network North America
Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association
Businesses that have signed on:
Columbia Gorge Organic