USDA Ditches GMO Regs: What It Means


Photo credit: USDA-ARS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Friday that it’s ditching a 2008 proposal that would have updated GMO regulations.

A little background: The USDA is one of three agencies that regulate GMOs (along with the EPA and FDA). When these engineered crops landed in our fields and grocery aisles, U.S. decision makers chose to rely on a patchwork of existing laws, many of which predate the technology, instead of creating a new law to oversee biotechnology. This resulted in a mishmash of agency interpretations for regulating GMOs.

The U.S.’s patchwork approach to regulating GMOs has left many holes: the absence of mandatory GMO labeling and post-market monitoring, and a mechanism for compensating non-GMO growers harmed by contamination, to name a few. Lacking a robust regulatory framework, each agency has, in different ways, abdicated their regulatory responsibility.

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First Organic Carrot Breeding Collaborative to Host Webinar

eOrganic_logoJoin eOrganic for a webinar on the Carrot Improvement for Organic Agriculture (CIOA) project on March 24th, 2015. The webinar takes place at 2:00 p.m. Eastern/1:00 p.m. Central/12:00 p.m. Mountain/ 11:00 a.m. Pacific. The webinar is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required.

CIOA is the first multi-state, participatory plant-breeding project to focus solely on organic carrots. Organic growers need carrot varieties that are adapted to organic conditions and have market qualities that organic consumers demand, such as superior nutrition and flavor. While some breeding work has identified these traits in orange, red, purple, and yellow carrots – all high-value crops and in demand by consumers – these varieties have not been adapted to the needs of organic agriculture.

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OSA Hosts First-Ever California Organic Seed Summit

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California Organic Seed Summit participants gather in Fair Oaks. Photo credit: Benjamin Fahrer

Organic Seed Alliance recently hosted the first-ever California Organic Seed Summit at Rudolf Steiner College in Fair Oaks. The purpose was to convene organic seed growers and organic seed companies to not just learn from each other, but to create a plan for their collective future. About 30 participants spent two days developing long-term strategies and actions for building organic seed systems in the third largest state.

Although California leads the nation in vegetable seed production, less than half of the vegetable seed planted on organic farms is organic, according to our 2011 State of Organic Seed findings. There is a clear need for more organic seed, and the state’s organic seed growers can help fill the gap. This summit provided the perfect forum for fostering relationships and for creating a plan to actualize a shared vision to improve the availability, diversity, quality, and integrity of organic seed grown in the state.

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The Seed Garden: The Art & Practice of Seed Saving

the-seed-gardenWe’re thrilled to announce that a new text for seed savers will be available this spring — in time for the growing season! — thanks to a collaboration between Seed Savers Exchange and Organic Seed Alliance. Together we’ve written and edited The Seed Garden: The Art and Practice of Seed Saving, which is filled with advice for both gardeners and the more seasoned horticulturist on saving seed from your favorite open-pollinated plants. The book is beautiful, combining stunning photographs with clear instructions on how to save seed from more than a dozen crop types. Our hope is that the book makes seed saving accessible to everyone, while helping readers develop a deeper understanding of the importance of practicing this important act as a way to conserve and improve the genetic diversity of our seed heritage.

Here’s an interview about the book with the executive director of Seed Savers Exchange. You can order The Seed Garden here (ships spring of 2015).

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Celebrating Our Big, Bold Organic Community

Organicology Logo.7_08 3OSA staff recently returned from the Organicology conference in Portland, Oregon, where more than 1,000 people representing all sectors of the organic food chain gathered to discuss – and further create together – a vision for growing the organic sector from the seed up.

Few food and farming conferences aim to inspire interaction between diverse players, where farmers get to know CEOs, organic certifiers visit with food retailers, and policy wonks meet public plant breeders. The event is deliberate cross-pollination at its finest.

OSA helped launch this biennial event in 2009 with our partners – Organically Grown Company, Oregon Tilth, and Sustainable Food Trade Association – because it seemed that few people in the organic food trade were considering the risks involved in expanding the organic sector on a foundation of seed developed for chemical agriculture. Organic farmers need the best seed possible, and that means seed developed for organic agriculture. We need to work collaboratively as a community to ensure organic seed is available and protected.

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