Urgent Action Needed to Support Organics and Non-GE Crops

Update 1/28/11

We are very disappointed in the USDA’s decision to deregulate GE Alfalfa with no conditions (meaning no restrictions to support coexistence). Planting GE alfalfa without restrictions may cause potential contamination of organic and non-genetically engineered crops. Despite this setback, Whole Foods Market will continue to be strong advocates for non-GE foods, their clear labeling and offering them in the marketplace.
If you've read the recent letter from the OCA we highly encourage you to read this as well. It's a wonderful response to the USDA's decision to deregulate GE alfalfa from the Executive Director of The Non-GMO Project, a non-profit multi-stakeholder collaboration committed to preserving and building sources of non-GMO products, educating consumers, and providing verified non-GMO choices. http://www.nongmoproject.org/2011/01/29/team-organic-will-never-surrender-to-monsanto-now-we-continue-the-fight-together/ opens in a new tab
Please read our subsequent blog post opens in a new tab about our concerns and read what Samuel Fromartz's says about the fallout on his Chewswise blog opens in a new tab.

---------- We hope everyone reading this will consider taking action immediately (click here to act now opens in a new tab) to help ensure both organic and non-genetically engineered (GE) agriculture remain viable options in the U.S. We believe farmers have a right to grow foods without fear of contamination from others’ GE crops—and that consumers have a right to make the choice to buy non-GE products. Seven years ago Monsanto petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to deregulate GE alfalfa which would allow it to be planted anywhere. Now, within a few days, the USDA will announce its decision whether to: 1) fully deregulate GE alfalfa OR 2) conditionally deregulate it by placing certain rules and restrictions on growing GE alfalfa that would minimize or limit contamination of non-GE crops (including organic). This second “coexistence” option is what we are rallying for even though we continue to have reservations about GE crops. The issue with GE alfalfa is the potential contamination of organic and non-GE alfalfa, which is used as a mainstay food for organic and non-GE dairy cows, beef cattle and honey bees. While USDA's decision will be specific to GE alfalfa, it will be a precedent-setting decision for how or whether other genetically engineered foods will be regulated far into the future. We applaud the USDA's historic approach considering deregulation with conditions (or coexistence) as one of the options. By recognizing that cross-contamination of GE alfalfa could impact organic and non-GE farmers and consumers, both domestically and for our export markets, the USDA is acknowledging that organic agriculture has the right to not only survive but to thrive alongside conventional agriculture. So, faced with the choice between full deregulation of GE alfalfa or conditional deregulation of it, our best chance at preserving seed purity, and the future of organic and non-GE agriculture now is to fight for every protection available under the USDA’s conditional deregulation coexistence option.

Contact the USDA, the White House and your Congressperson before Monday, January 24th. Tell them non-GE crops should have a seat at the table! True COEXISTENCE is a must. Ask your congressperson to contact House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas to express support for Secretary Vilsack’s coexistence plan. 

If we raise our voices together, we can make a difference. Send this call to action to everyone you know who is concerned about organics and non-GE crops. Post written by Whole Foods Market leaders Walter Robb, co-CEO, and Margaret Wittenberg, Global VP of Quality Standards & Public Affairs.

Background on the GE alfalfa issue

On December 16, 2010, the USDA released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of Monsanto's genetically engineered Roundup Ready Alfalfa. The EIS was conducted in response to a court decision demanding more thorough analysis of the potential environmental, economic and health impacts of GE alfalfa before approving deregulation. The EIS outlines three options for addressing GE alfalfa: 1.    Fully deregulate it (allow it to be planted anywhere) 2.    Fully regulate it (non-production; USDA has indicated this is not an option it would pursue) 3.    Conditionally deregulate it (allow GE alfalfa to be grown with certain rules and restrictions USDA would impose to minimize or limit contamination of non-GE crops) Shortly after releasing the EIS, USDA indicated their preference for the third option and asked the biotech, non-GE and organic communities to convene to try and find common ground for formulating rules and restrictions under conditional deregulation. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack recently invited representatives from agriculture, business and consumer organizations to explore coexistence between non-GE proponents and GE proponents.  It showed refreshing leadership after many years of debate that has cost farmers with contaminated crops in this country millions of dollars in litigation over the years. Our non-GE and organic farmers continue to be concerned with crop contamination and market rejection. Independent studies in the U.S. and in other countries on GE crops have documented a long list of reasons for concern, including evidence that these crops lead to herbicide-resistant super-weeds and require the use of more toxic herbicides. As mentioned above, organic alfalfa is used as feed by most organic and non-GE dairies. Also, the policy set for GE alfalfa will most likely guide policies for other GE crops as well. There are rigorous standards in place for USDA-certified organics. We are encouraged that USDA has taken tentative steps and we believe its coexistence plan can support all consumers, farmers and agribusinesses.  We believe true coexistence should include three central issues:

  • The protection of seed purity for all farmers, including organic, so we maintain variety and avoid massive mono-culture;

  • Compensation by the patent holder to the farmer for any losses related to the contamination of his crop; and

  • Public oversight by the USDA rather than relying on the biotechnology industry to voluntarily try to contain GE contamination as the USDA has the authority to protect all US agriculture.

Explore More