committee in May. All these issues that were just mentioned are being debated
within the relevant task forces and will be presented to the full committee.
ing toward organic. Right now there’s
no economic incentive or reward until
you get organic certified. This standard could be the vehicle to reward
farmers at whatever point they are
within the sustainability spectrum.
Jim Pierce is the global certification program manager for the
organic certification agency, Oregon Tilth and chair of the Needs
Assessment Task Force for the ANSI Sustainable Agriculture
Practice Standard. At Tilth, Pierce monitors, assesses and interprets international organic standards for several organic producers and processors. Previous to this position Jim worked for
Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative as certification czar.
OP: So where does organic fit into all of this so far? I have heard that organic is going
to be the “gold standard” for sustainable production.
Linda Brown: The draft standard that
SCS brought to the table contains language that explicitly references organic
practices in terms of pest management
and soil fertility practices, but that’s only
one reference document for the committee’s consideration at this point.
Grace Gershuny: The whole thing is on the table right now and what we’re
doing at this point is looking at reference documents and the needs assessment
and trying to come up with a consensus for this particular committee that reflects a broad base of stakeholders. Part of that is to incorporate principles from
the work that’s been done in organic. At this point, however, there’s no way to
say exactly how that’s going to fit together.
OP: I’ve heard that representatives from
the GMO industry are involved. This
seems to go against what most of us believe
is sustainable agriculture. Why are they
part of this?
John Foster: When we use phrases or questions like, “Is organic going to be the
gold standard?” it makes it seem like organic is what everyone is going for. I
don’t think we can use that language for much longer. It makes it difficult to
have the conversation. In terms of production practices, organic may very well
be the gold standard, but only for a part of what sustainability covers. We also
have to ask if organic is a starting point as far as production practices go, or the
gold standard. If organic is the starting point, in terms of production practices,
that by definition will exclude other kinds of production practices. If we say organic is where we start on how to grow crops, I’m comfortable with that—not
everyone on the committee is, though.
Amanda Raster: One of the requirements in developing an ANSI standard
is that anyone who may be affected by
the standard or the development
process must be included in some way.
We knew that if we didn’t put people
on the committee who supported
GMOs and biotech that the standards
wouldn’t move forward. ANSI would
not approve a final standard if all of
the affected parties weren’t at the table
in some way or another.
Grace Gershuny: One of the important points of this is that it provides an entry
point that allows those who would not consider becoming organic to be recog-
Grace Gershuny is a representative for the Organic Trade Association, and the vice secretary and co-chair of the Mission and
Principles Task Force for the ANSI Sustainable Agriculture
Practice Standard. She was a key leader in developing the organic rule and has served on the staff of the NOP and authored
numerous books. She currently consults on regulatory and pro-
gram development matters for the organic industry, assists clients with organic system plans and performs organic inspections.
Grace Gershuny: Interestingly, many
who support GMOs truly believe their
use is an important tool for sustainable
agriculture. They believe this is a technological solution to problems.
nized for taking steps toward more sustainable practices. I think the real issues
are going to come down to how low will the entry point be.
Jim Pierce: It was very heartening to see the draft standards include credit for
organic practices. However, right now organic is only about 2 percent of the
production in the United States. In order to have a broader base of influence,
we’d like to give credit to those practicing more sustainable farming measures
that may not be moving toward organic and give credit to farmers that are mov-
Jim Pierce: What I learned at the first
meeting is that the farmers using
GMOs really do consider themselves
American heroes. When we came at
them with an anti-GMO policy, they
were really offended. GMOs are clearly
disallowed in the organic standard,
and that’s worked to our advantage in
marketing organic over and over. A
side benefit being raised in this standard is that it may encourage farmers
to confront these biotech companies