OSA applauds the National Organic Standards Board’s (NOSB) recent decision to ask the U.S. Agriculture Secretary to better address the organic community’s long-standing concerns on issues of GE contamination. At the board’s May 2012 meeting in Albuquerque, NOSB members voted to send a letter to Secretary Vilsack that sets a course for NOSB to clarify issues around excluded methods. The letter also asks the Secretary to acknowledge that the responsibility to prevent GE contamination of organic products, including at the seed level, should not be the burden of organic alone.
This decision is encouraging, and a reminder not to underestimate the power of speaking up, as the letter was largely a response to ongoing, unsolicited public comments on the topic at past NOSB meetings.
Protecting the integrity of non-GE seed to meet market needs and maintain appropriate germplasm for innovation in the organic sector is paramount to the success of the organic industry. Not only does the NOP require non-GE seed, consumers of organic food also reasonably expect that certified organic farmers do not use this excluded method – that the seed they plant is free of transgenic material. Yet the unwanted presence of GE material adds confusion and costs to organic operations, especially when contamination is found at the seed level. OSA believes that those who develop, promote, and use GE products — and the regulatory bodies overseeing them — must share the responsibility to protect the genetic integrity of organic seed, feed, and food.