Today, many events are exposing the biotech experiment for what it is. Several
studies have come out recently that directly debunk the safety and sustainability
claims that biotech companies have made about GMOs (see page 34), and polls
are coming back with a clear message from consumers: We want the right to know
what is in our food.
In a recent MSNBC.com online survey, people were asked if they believed genetically modified foods should be labeled, and the resounding answer, totaling
96 percent of 45,698 votes at time of press was, “Yes. It’s an ethical issue—
consumers should be informed so they can make a choice.”
It’s time for the American consumer to demand the right to know what is in
their food and for the organic industry to combine its energy and passion to lead
this effort. With the shocking complete deregulation of GM alfalfa this past January, many are getting fired up and the organic community is coming together like
never before to support both policy and consumer awareness efforts. These efforts include everything from supporting
state-level GMO labeling initiatives, now
launched in 14 states, to getting behind the
first national demonstration to demand
GMO labeling---the Right2Know March.
This 16-day March---which starts in New
York on October 1st, the first day of Non-GMO Month, and ends at the White House
in Washington, D.C. on October 16th,
World Food Day---is set to be one of the
most powerful consumer activism campaigns in the United States since the industrialization of food.
Taking Action at the Policy
One way that the organic industry is
working to protect organic farms from
GMO contamination is through
changing policy in Washington.
In the past five years, the Center for
Food Safety (CFS) has filed and won
several cases overturning approvals of
GM crops, such as sugar beets and alfalfa. A public patent lawsuit has also
been filed on behalf of a coalition of
organic farmers and NGOs, arguing
that the patents Monsanto and other
GMOs and the Organic Movement
While the energy to address the many issues posed by GMOs is greater than ever before, the organic industry faces its own unique challenges. One of the largest is
contamination. As the percentage of deregulated GMO crops rises, so does the
chance that these crops will contaminate organic fields. Unless something is done
to stop the “rubber stamp” approvals of GM crops, the situation is going to continue to get worse. According to Reuters, following the USDA’s recent controversial approvals of GM alfalfa, sugar beets and biofuel corn, the agency has received
23 more petitions for deregulation, most of them from Monsanto and Syngenta.
While USDA organic regulations strictly prohibit the use of GMOs in organic,
preventing unintentional contamination is of utmost concern to both the organic
industry—and the organic consumer. According to research from Stonyfield
Farm and Organic Valley conducted last fall, the lack of GMOs is a major driving
factor for the purchase of organic products. When 12,899 consumers who purchase organic food or beverages at least one time a week were surveyed:
• 98 percent of organic meat consumers said they purchase organic meat be-
cause “I want to avoid meat from animals whose feed includes chemicals and
• 83 percent of organic food consumers said they purchase organic food specifi-
cally to avoid GMOs, and 29 percent said avoiding GMOs is the main reason
they buy organic food.
• 79 percent of organic food consumers would stop buying organic food if it
proprietary entities use to sue farmers
for patent infringement are an unlawful application of the U.S. Patent Act.
In addition to litigation, the organic
industry has also tried negotiation.
Prior to the USDA’s deregulation of alfalfa, a group of organic leaders sat
down at the table with the USDA and
biotech leaders to discuss “
coexistence” with questions such as: Who
pays for the farm that gets contaminated? How can seed sources be protected? Who pays for all this DNA
testing? Shouldn’t regulations consider how GMOs affect other forms of
“These conversations need to find
their way back on the table,” says Gary
Hirshberg, CEO of Stonyfield Farm,
who was part of the coexistence discussion group. “For example, there needs