What's the Problem?
Seed is the first and most vital resource in the production chain. The integrity of seed is therefore paramount to the success of organic farmers. We believe organic food integrity requires organic seed integrity.
OSA is concerned about GE crops because the integrity of organic seed requires genetics free of transgenic material, and cross-pollination (and other routes of contamination) threatens to increase production costs, eliminate markets for organic alfalfa seed producers, and harm the integrity of the organic label.
Organic farmers and seed producers need seed that is free of transgenic material to meet USDA’s national organic standards, which require seed absent GE traits. Furthermore, organic farmers and seed producers rely on the organic label remaining credible, as consumers reasonably assume organic means GE-free.
Questions regarding liability remain unanswered. The organic and non-GE farming community cannot continue to shoulder costs associated with contamination, including testing for contamination, reimbursement for eradicating unwanted GE material from seed stock, lost organic premiums, and other costs. In the event contamination occurs, organic seed producers need those who own, promote, and profit from GE seed technologies to be held responsible for the irreparable damage contamination causes. The organic seed industry in particular experiences irreparable harm beyond economic damage of a single crop in the event contamination occurs, as contamination harms the reputation of the organic seed industry.
What OSA is Doing
When a product threatens to impact not just a single neighboring crop, but the integrity and viability of a farm and industry label, what recourse do those not choosing GE seed technologies have when seed genetics, markets, and reputation are harmed? Courts are not a policy solution, but this is an appropriate role for the judicial system to play.
That is why OSA became a plaintiff in legal cases involving Roundup Ready sugar beets. Our goal wasn't to get into a legal fight with USDA. Rather, we work with organic farmers who are threatened by contamination. As we work to create alternative seed systems, we must protect this work from contamination.
Both the organic and biotechnology industries acknowledge that transgenic material is moving into fields and markets where it is not allowed or wanted, but little has been done to address the problem through regulatory processes and enforcement. Contamination prevention strategies must take seriously the principles of diversity, fairness, liability, precaution, sustainability, and transparency, as outlined by the National Organic Coalition. Only then will we make progress toward protecting the integrity of organic seed.
OSA facilitates a Seed Integrity Working Group to establish collaborative actions and policies that protect the integrity of organic breeding systems and organic seed from contamination by genetically engineered material.
State of Organic Seed (Section 3: Risks of Transgenic Contamination) (2011)
Ten Ways to Respond to USDA’s GE Alfalfa and Sugar Beet Decisions (2011)
Five Reasons Why GE Sugar Beets Threaten Organic (2011)
Twelve Reasons Why GE Alfalfa Threatens Organic (2011)
OSA's GE Sugar Beet Comments (2010)
Concerns with Contamination & Coexistence (2008)