Genetic Engineering (GE) and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are not a part of organic production. NOC is currently advocating to clarify the prohibition for next generation GMOs in organic production and we are advocating for transparent labeling of genetically engineered foods. NOC is concerned about GMO contamination of organic crops and we believe that companies that patent, promote, and profit from GE crops should be responsible for covering losses that result from GMO contamination.
NOC also advocates for animal and plant breeding programs to develop non-GMO seeds and animal breeds best suited for organic conditions. Learn more here.
Prohibitions in Organic for Next Generation GMOs
NOC and our member organizations are urging clarifications to the organic rules to ensure that synthetic biology and other new gene editing techniques are clearly prohibited in organic production and processing.
In November of 2016, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) unanimously adopted a recommendation that clarifies that new gene editing techniques are not permitted in organic. The recommendation builds on the previous definition of ‘excluded methods’ in organic to encompass new genetic technologies in this rapidly expanding field. The recommendation also recognizes that the NOSB and USDA National Organic Program will need to continually review new genetic technologies as they emerge to determine if they are prohibited.
In July of 2016, Congress passed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. This law requires the USDA to establish a disclosure standard for food with genetically engineered ingredients by July of 2018.
The National Organic Coalition has long advocated for mandatory national labeling to give consumers clear information about whether their food contains GE-derived ingredients. However, NOC members organizations unanimously opposed the National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard because the law falls far short of establishing a meaningful, fully transparent and easily accessible food labeling system.
On May 3, 2018, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its long-awaited proposed regulations to establish how the GMO labeling law will be implemented. The proposed rule falls far short of what is needed. Here are NOC's comments to the USDA urging the USDA to create a meaningful disclosure standard for GMO foods that is consistent with international standards and uses terms that are understandable and familiar to consumers.
The contamination of organic crops as a result of gene flow from GMO crops planted on neighbors’ fields is an increasing problem. To avoid cross pollination from GMO crops, organic farmers must take expensive steps such as delaying the planting of their crops relative to their neighbors’ genetically engineered crops, establishing wide buffer zones, and testing their crops for inadvertent presence of GMO traits. When organic crops are contaminated, organic farmers may lose their markets when their buyer rejects the shipment because of the GMO contamination. In a 2013 survey of organic grain and hay farmers in 17 states, one out of three respondents indicated that they had dealt with GMO contamination on their farm.
NOC urges Congress to establish procedures for organic and non-GE farmers to be compensated when they experience market losses from gene flow from neighboring crops and for contamination prevention expenses. The patent holder of the GE technology should be the liable party, since they control the technology development and terms of its use. NOC has outlined the principles that we believe must frame the discussion of how to prevent contamination and facilitate fair market farming systems.
NOC is also urging USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to make gene flow and contamination of non-target plants an explicit factor in considering whether or not to approve new genetically engineered crops. Unless GE technology companies are required to address gene flow prevention as part of the USDA approval process, the problem will not be addressed.