For Immediate Release
For more information, contact:
Holly Givens (413-774-7511, Ext. 18)
Organic Trade Association Warns that Expansion of Genetically Engineered Crops
Continues to Threaten Consumer Choice
GREENFIELD, Mass. (October 20, 2004) - A study released today by the National Center for Food and Agricultural Policy describes genetically engineered crops as "environmentally friendly farming" and claims that six genetically engineered crops have boosted U.S. farmers' yields as well as their overall income. With this explosive growth of the biotech industry, the Organic Trade Association continues to warn of potential organic contamination and calls for stricter containment strategies for biotech crops.
Since 2000, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) has called for a moratorium on the use of genetically engineered (GE) organisms in all agricultural production because of the possibility of contamination and other detrimental effects on the organic industry, and ultimately consumer choice. Findings in a 2004 report "Biological Confinement of Genetically Engineered Organisms" released by the National Academy of Sciences confirmed that GE contamination is possible and could have the potential to cause unintended effects on the environment.
"OTA is very concerned that the expansion of genetically engineered crops may ultimately limit consumer options," said Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association. "For consumers who want to select products grown without the use of genetically engineered materials, they should look for the organic label."
It is estimated that at least one-third of the U.S. corn supply, and more than three-quarters of U.S. soybeans are genetically engineered, without being labeled as such in the marketplace. With evidence mounting of a GE food system out of control, the Organic Trade Association encourages the U.S Department of Agriculture to institute much stricter containment efforts and other new regulations to prevent further GE contamination.
DiMatteo noted that organic producers take great care to offer customers a quality product with only the limited use of synthetic processing materials or ingredients. "Organic agriculture must be protected from contamination and damage from genetically engineered crops," said DiMatteo. Consumers seeking products that contain no genetically engineered materials may be denied their choice because of inadvertent contamination.
Potential Hazards to the Organic Agriculture Industry
GE contamination of conventional crops has been well documented. The contamination can occur from both seed and pollen drift from nearby fields, or the inadvertent planting of GE contaminated seed stock. Findings released in February 2004 by the Union for Concerned Scientists showed widespread contamination of conventional seed by GE materials. To help ensure ongoing availability of uncontaminated seeds that would be acceptable for organic farming, OTA urges the United States Department of Agriculture, and land-grant universities take immediate steps to reinvigorate the public plant breeding establishment.
Unintended biological evolution of GE plants is also a concern. For example, certain GE crops contain the insecticide gene for Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), designed to allow every cell of the plant to be insect resistant throughout the plant's lifespan. Studies suggest that these plants will eventually produce insect pests that are unaffected by Bt, rendering it useless as an insecticide for non-GE crops. Bt is an approved biological pest control used sparingly by organic farmers.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is a membership-based business association whose mission is to encourage global sustainability through promoting and protecting the growth of diverse organic trade. OTA's more than 1,500 members include growers, shippers, retailers, processors, certifiers, farmer associations, brokers, consultants and others. For further info, visit OTA's web site at www.ota.com.
October 20, 2004
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