The use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is prohibited in organic products. This means an organic farmer can’t plant GMO seeds, an organic cow can’t eat GMO alfalfa or corn, and an organic soup producer can’t use any GMO ingredients. To meet the USDA organic regulations, farmers and processors must show they aren’t using GMOs, and that they are protecting their products from contact with prohibited substances, such as GMOs, from farm to table.
OTA has long been actively engaged in fighting the proliferation of GMO foods to protect organic agriculture and trade and preserve farmer and consumer choice. In 2000, OTA called for a moratorium on the use of genetically engineered (GE) organisms in all agricultural production, and for mandatory labeling of GMO foods. In July, 2011 OTA’s Board of Directors reviewed, revised and voted to adopt an updated policy position on GMOs. Read OTA’s official position below.
Currently the burden of avoiding GMO contamination falls solely on organic producers and handlers. OTA supports ongoing development of protections to prevent contamination of organic products, prevent economic loss to organic farmers, and strict regulation of genetically engineered crops and animals.
To learn more about GMOs and the requirements under the organic regulations, check out the following OTA Resources:
OTA’s GMO White Paper OTA's Fact Sheet on Non-GMO Verification under NOP Organic Certification OTA's Q & A on Non-GMO Verification under NOP Organic Certification Quick Tips: Organic is THE CHOICE to avoid GMOs OTA comments on co-existence: APHIS: Enhancing Agricultural Coexistence OTA Position of Labeling Organic Products Non-GMO
OTA believes that third-party certification under the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) is all that is needed to demonstrate non-GMO production
OTA has a comprehensive GMO policy in place, unanimously adopted by its Board of Directors.
1. OTA shall continue to call for a moratorium on GMOs in agriculture. More independent research and regulation are necessary before any more GMOS are allowed in the food system. In fact, there is increasing scientific evidence that GMO crops can cause environmental & health problems.
OTA shall adopt policy positions that uphold the long-term goal of a moratorium on GMOs. Until that goal is reached:
2. OTA supports mandatory labeling of all agricultural GMOs and their products. OTA supports the consumer’s right to know, and to choose foods, fiber and personal care products based on environmental, personal health, religious, dietary or other preferences. Labeling of GMO seed, products grown from GMO seed or stock, or made with ingredients and byproducts of GMO crops is necessary for farmer, supply chain and consumer choice.
3. OTA shall also adopt policies that address the problems the industry shall face as a result of continued GMO deregulation.
- OTA shall advocate for a more robust regulatory framework for federal oversight of GMO crops that includes economic, environmental and human health impacts of GMO crops petitioned for deregulation.
- OTA shall adopt policy positions that lead to a review of currently deregulated crops under an improved framework.
- OTA shall directly engage in dialog with agencies and Congress regarding GMO policy.
4. OTA shall bolster organic as the gold standard by advocating for continuous improvement of the organic practice standard.
- OTA shall adopt policy positions that strengthen the organic standards to minimize GMO contamination & increase enforcement on the prohibition of the use of GMO crop varieties while minimizing the negative impact to farmer
- OTA shall advocate for GMO testing by certifiers as part of the requirement for periodic residue testing to verify compliance and enforcement of the standards.
- OTA shall adopt policies that encourage the reduction of testing costs to organic farmers, handlers, and certifiers wherever possible.
- OTA supports the incorporation of a GMO threshold, for crops that have genetically engineered counterparts, into the NOP regulations at the appropriate time. OTA will work with industry stakeholders, the NOSB, and NOP to that end.
- OTA shall facilitate data collection and analysis on the extent of low-level contamination or adventitious presence of GMOs in organic and the best practices for prevention at critical control points in the supply chain.
5. OTA shall advocate for policies that assign the cost of contamination prevention and market loss to the developers of GMO technology.
6. OTA recognizes the critical role of seed in the supply chain and shall advocate for policies that secure a seed supply to the organic sector that is free of GMOs. To that end:
- OTA shall advocate for a seed purity standard
- OTA shall advocate for more robust germplasm repositories for non-GMO seed
- OTA shall advocate for re-emphasis of classical plant breeding
7. OTA shall educate the public and policy makers regarding the environmental and health concerns emerging with GMO’s.
- OTA shall educate the public on the extent to which organic farmers, food and fiber manufacturers work to prevent GMOs from entering the organic supply chain.
- OTA shall educate policy makers on the challenges to agriculture from trans-gene flow and low-level contamination of organic crops by GMOs as they relate to meeting marketplace and consumer expectations.
Adopted by the Board of Directors- July 28, 2011
Regulatory Director, Organic Standards & Food Safety