Gene Editing is Prohibited in Organic

Join NOC in urging the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) to keep GMOs out of organic. Submit written comments or sign up to give oral comments by October 3, 2019.

Gene editing is a form of genetic engineering that is clearly prohibited in the organic regulations. Recent NOSB recommendations also affirm this prohibition against gene editing in organic food and farming.

  • Consumers do not want GMO foods: One reason consumers choose to buy organic products is because genetic engineering is not allowed. Any future effort to allow products of genetic engineering into certified organic products will likely be met with the full force of public resistance that the USDA witnessed in 1997, when the organic rules were first written and the initial draft proposal allowed genetic engineering and other now excluded methods. 

  • The organic community is united on this issue: The NOSB has already reviewed (with numerous opportunities for public comment) gene editing techniques and recommended unanimously that they remain excluded methods.

  • Newer genetic engineering techniques are not needed in organic: With enough careful investment, public plant breeders and seed companies can continue to deliver organic farmers the seed they need with essential production characteristics, including disease- and drought-tolerance and high yield. Classical, field-based plant breeding is the most powerful and cost-effective breeding tool available to us for adapting our crop genetics to ever changing climates and production and market needs. We should put more funding toward methods that advance organic agriculture, are allowed in organic production per the standards, and meet the expectations of organic consumers.

  • Gene editing is not a panacea: New evidence shows that the technology is not nearly as precise or predictable as previously claimed.

Organic is a system that embraces the precautionary principle with regard to genetic engineering of food, because of the unintended consequences of the technology. For many organic consumers, one attraction of organic is that it is one place in our food system where they can be assured that this high level of precaution is built into the governing statute and regulations. 

We encourage the NOSB to continue to vocally oppose the inclusion of all forms of gene editing in organic. We support the NOSB recommendation on excluded methods from the fall of 2016 and subsequent recommendations in 2017, 2018, and 2019. We would like to see these recommendations formally adopted by the NOP and implemented through guidance. In addition, we are asking that the NOP clearly articulate on the record that gene editing is not allowed in organic based on the current organic regulations.



Abby Youngblood