Last week, a GMO labeling bill was introduced as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 (H.R. 4432). What may sound like a welcomed effort to enhance transparency in grocery aisles is in fact an attempt by large food, chemical, and biotechnology firms to further reduce the chances that consumers will see GMOs labeled in the U.S. As written, the bill mandates voluntary GMO labeling, and would also:
- Preempt states from enacting their own GMO labeling laws
- Preempt the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring GMO labeling
- Require FDA to define the term “natural” and allow GMO ingredients in “natural” foods
- Tie the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) hands from instituting systems to allow absence claims, such as “non-GMO”
This legislation takes the opposite approach to labeling that Americans have asked for, and has therefore been dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. If you’re one of the 93% of Americans who support labeling GMO ingredients, call your representative today and urge him/her to reject H.R. 4422. You can also send an email here.
This morning the Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI) is hosting a rally on the campus of the University of Wisconsin – Madison to kick off the release of 29 plant varieties under a new open-source pledge. The initiative is inspired by open source software, and has the intention of protecting seed from becoming proprietary products. The event is being held in solidarity with the International Day of Struggle in Defense of Peasants’ and Farmers’ Seeds.
OSA has participated in OSSI for the last three years to explore alternatives to restrictive intellectual property practices in plant breeding. Utility patents and onerous licensing agreements have hindered innovation in the public and private seed sector, fostering concentration of market power, and removing valuable plant genetics from the pool of resources breeders rely on. Many breeders find themselves restricted in how they use protected varieties or traits, and sometimes are outright prohibited from using them.
The following pledge is printed on every OSSI seed packet:
“This Open Source Seed Pledge is intended to ensure your freedom to use the seed contained herein in any way you choose, and to make sure those freedoms are enjoyed by all subsequent users. By opening this packet, you pledge that you will not restrict others’ use of these seeds and their derivatives by patents, licenses, or any other means. You pledge that if you transfer these seeds or their derivatives you will acknowledge the source of these seeds and accompany your transfer with this pledge.”
Planning for Organicology is underway and Organic Seed Alliance is a proud co-host! Mark your calendars to join us in Portland, Oregon, for this one-of-a-kind event on February 5-7, 2015.
We need to hear from you to ensure we are addressing topics that are important to participants. Please take five minutes to take this short survey that will inform the 2015 agenda.
Organicology brings together a diverse group of the organic community to assess and act on important organic issues in a interdisciplinary framework. Organic seed is discussed within the context of the broader organic community at this biennial gathering that complements our Organic Seed Growers Conference, which focuses exclusively on organic seed.
Please complete this brief survey by April 15, 2014 or contact planners by email with any questions.
We look forward to hearing from you!
OSA is happy to announce today the release of four organic plant breeding manuals that walk farmers through the methods of breeding new crop varieties on their farm. They include an introduction to on-farm organic plant breeding and three crop-specific breeding manuals covering carrots, sweet corn, and tomatoes.
“One of our goals is to empower organic farmers to breed their own crop varieties,” says OSA Executive Director Micaela Colley. “The methods described in these manuals can immediately be adopted by farmers to improve their skills in plant breeding, and, ultimately, improve their operations through seed varieties that are well-suited to their farms.”
Introduction to On-farm Organic Plant Breeding provides farmers an overview of basic genetics, farm-based experimental design, and breeding techniques appropriate for organic farms, among other useful background and instruction. The introductory guide provides the scientific foundation for the crop-specific instruction provided in the other three guides: How to Breed Carrots for Organic Agriculture, How to Breed Sweet Corn for Organic Agriculture, and How to Breed Tomatoes for Organic Agriculture. Each crop-specific manual provides step-by-step instruction from identifying good breeding material to maintaining a new variety for quality and uniformity.
OSA was thrilled to see the seed stewarding Podoll family recognized as farmers of the year at the Midwest Organic and Sustainable Education Service‘s (MOSES) 25th organic farming conference. Theresa and David Podoll of Fullerton, North Dakota, are pioneers of organic seed production in the Northern Plains and intimately engaged in the national community of seed stewards through research collaborations and seed distribution. Read more about their farm and business, Prairie Road Organic Seed, here.
They are also courageous advocates for sound policy, as evidenced by Theresa’s commentary (view video) on USDA’s pending approval of 2,4-D tolerant crops.
“We’re surrounded by GMO soy and corn,” Theresa says, “and so what wakes me up at 3 o’clock at night, and keeps me awake for the rest of the night, is thinking about the viability of our farm if those crops are approved and released.”