“GMO Organic”? Say It Isn’t So

Right now, we have organic crops that may be grown from non-organic seed (when claimed that no organic seed was available or nefarious labeling), in soil that has been fertilized with manure from factory farms, and to which some synthetic pesticides may be applied. That’s all legit. It looks like organic standards may be eroded further by the use of gene editing. That’s right, GMOs could one day be used in organic production.

Should Gene Editing Be Part Of Organic Production? USDA Opens Debate, Food Ingredients First, 29 July 2019

29 Jul 2019 — Greg Ibach, Under Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), has hinted that gene-editing methods should be allowed within organic production. The comments he made before the House Agriculture Subcommittee could lead to a loosening of the restrictive genetically modified organism (GMO) legislation, long-called for by both scientists and the Trump administration. Supporters of genetic engineering argue that it can be used to help increase production yield and nutrition at a time when food security is an increasing concern within the global food industry.

“As the National Organic Standards Board set the rules originally, GMOs are not eligible to be in the organic program. However, we’ve seen new technology, including gene-editing, that accomplishes things in shorter periods of time than a natural breeding process can. I think there is the opportunity to open the discussion to consider whether it is appropriate for some of these new technologies that include gene-editing to be eligible to be used to enhance organic production and to have drought and disease-resistant varieties, as well as higher-yield varieties available,” he says.

One of the hallmarks of the organic label is the prohibition of genetic engineering, meaning that this move would be drastic.

Food security is more about access, not production. We have enough food to feed all the people in the world. What the world has a problem with is distributing that food equitably.

As I keep saying, “organic” has become a marketing term. Its association with more natural (I’m sorry to use that word!), more humane, more sustainable food production has gone out the window.

2 thoughts on ““GMO Organic”? Say It Isn’t So

  1. Darryl Roy

    Honestly, I would be willing to pay extra for produce grown under conditions that preserve topsoil, but I don’t care in the least whether the crops are transgenic or not.

    Climate change is real, has a devestating effect on crop yields, and by end century on the current trajectory, hundreds of millions (if not more) will starve. https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B-2XWDkPfB2OMFdkdGYyUnkwVHM?usp=sharing

    There have been a very few morsels of good news for me this year. Certainly the visibility of Greta Thurnberg and Extinction Rebellion, and the adoption of climate responses as major platform point of the progressive presidential canditates. And among them is a paper in which yield increases of 40% were demonstrated in a transgenic crop model. https://science.sciencemag.org/content/363/6422/eaat9077

    I’ll continue to support the transgenic crop research that offers higher yields, lower acreage requirements, and better nutrition (like Golden Rice). http://goldenrice.org/ Because this century, we’ll need all the help we can get to save civilization.


  2. Bix Post author

    Organic food that is sold for a premium price with the expectation that it protects soil, promotes biodiversity, preserves ecosystems, should not, in my opinion, be genetically engineered.

    I do think genetic engineering (GE) has value in food production.

    Monsanto made a bad name for GE by using the technology to create a product, Roundup Ready seed, that requires another one of their products, Roundup herbicide, to be useful. The seeds are sterile so farmers have to buy new seed every year, instead of saving some from a prior year. And Monsanto obscured the known risks involved with exposure to Roundup. Their motive was profit, not public health, not environmental health.

    If technologies that use genetic engineering, Roundup, and other pesticides and herbicides, are to be applied to food, they should be applied to everyone’s food, no opting out with organic. Everyone should be exposed to them. They are, after all, for the good of humanity. Then the debate about how to use them would become more meaningful.

    I feel this way about other things, like going to war. If we as a country decide to go to war, everyone should be drafted, no deferments for education or bone spurs, everyone sacrifices, young and old, rich and poor. I think it would lead to a more meaningful debate about going to war.



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