Commentary: No contamination of organic crops by GMOs

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According to the USDA's rules for organic production—written, edited and finalized by organic industry stakeholders—there is no such thing as contamination of an organic crop by genetically modified organisms (GMOs). And yet, supporters of Measure 15–119 to ban GMOs in Jackson County, Oregon, claim to be trying to protect organic farmers.

Read the standards. Organic farmers are not allowed to use GMOs; but since GMOs are perfectly safe, contact with them does not result in the decertification of an organic crop. Indeed, not a single organic crop in North America has ever been decertified due to contact with a GMO.

Activists claim GMOs don’t perform as advertised. But American farmers choose to grow them for the same reason European farmers wish they could grow them: decreased weed and pest pressure, increased yields, improved nutrition, reduced fuel consumption and reduced soil erosion.

So, why are organic activists so dead-set opposed to this new science? Simple, because GMOs deliver on everything the organic industry once promised. As such, the people who brought you certified-organic food in America that tests positive for prohibited pesticides a whopping 43 percent of the time, seek to ban GMOs from the face of American agriculture.

I grew up on an organic grain farm and became an organic inspector in 1998. I believed it was important to produce food that was pure and nutritious, while minimizing our impact on the land. But rather than pursue these goals that were once the backbone of the organic movement, an urbanized leadership replaced all the full-time farmers who used to run the organic movement, and launched a full-frontal assault on all forms of science-based farming, with genetic engineering in the forefront.

Many activists pretend that banning GMOs has nothing to do with advancing organics. But the National Director of The Organic Consumers Association, Ronnie Cummins (a vocal supporter of Measure 15–119), spells it all out: “The challenge will be to see if organic consumers, environmental organizations, farm activists, churches and public interest groups can begin making headway in the bigger battle— driving genetically engineered crops off the market all over the world.”

Still think Measure 15–119 has nothing to do with the self-serving aims of urban organic activists? If their way is better, why not prove it instead of trying to ban the competition?

To avoid providing an answer, some activists claim to be organic but not certified. But the rules of organic production apply to anyone who uses the term “organic.” This was done by organic stakeholders to prevent anyone from misusing the term. So, there’s no escaping the rules that stipulate no threat to an organic crop from GMOs.

Others, like organic farmer-activist Chris Hardy—director of GMO Free Jackson County—claim the rules don’t apply because their buyers demand a 100 percent GMO-free product. This led Hardy to actually sabotage his own crop by plowing it down—without bothering to test it first! This action appears to be under the pretense that he was avoiding GMO “contamination.”

The person who threatened Hardy’s crop wasn’t his neighbor growing GMOs. It was him and his buyer. But it’s against the law to claim to exceed America’s organic standards, which is precisely what such zero-tolerance for GMOs tries to do.

Although most organic farmers are honest and hardworking, and would never plow down a crop for political reasons, they’re saddled with a litany of useless rules that make organic farming in America less efficient than when their grandparents farmed. And it’s all thanks to the tax-funded, anti-GMO leadership of the organic movement.

Genetic engineering gave us synthetic insulin for diabetics! And it could prevent a half-million kids from going blind and dying each year in the “majority world” due to Vitamin-A deficiency. GMO Golden Rice could already be saving these kids, but for the fact that anti-GMO organic activists stopped it from being approved on the claim it will harm organic rice, which is nothing but a bald-faced lie.

Speaking to voters in Jackson County, I say vote “NO” on Measure 15–119, and tell the activists in the county to read their own rule book. Otherwise, you can rest assured, farming in America will go back in time.

Mischa Popoff is a former organic farmer and USDA-contract organic inspector. He is the author of the book, Is it Organic? and has co-authored articles alongside Patrick Moore, Ph.D., one of the co-founders of Greenpeace, and leader of the Allow Golden Rice Now! campaign.

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