GREENFIELD, Mass. (Jan. 14, 2000) – Citing the adverse impact of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on organic production, the Organic Trade Association (OTA) is calling for a moratorium on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in all agricultural production.
"More independent research and regulation are necessary before any more GMOs are allowed in agriculture. As long as GMOs continue to be allowed, organic producers are at risk from background levels of GMOs," OTA said in a position statement released today.
Genetic engineering works by moving DNA between species in ways that are not possible in nature. The use of this technology in agriculture has the potential to cause unintended effects on the environment and on human health, OTA pointed out. Organic certification organizations already prohibit the use of GMO seeds or other products of GMOs in organic production.
Although the certified organic label means GMOs are not used, OTA noted that some organic products could inadvertently contain small amounts of GMO material from exposure to pollen from GMO crops in the field or incidental GMO ingredients in processing. Minor ingredients made from corn or soy, in particular, must be carefully sourced to avoid GMO by-products.
At the very minimum, OTA said, there should be mandatory labeling of GMO foods, with the real goal of an outright, worldwide moratorium on GMO use in all agriculture.
"Labeling should apply to all genetically engineered products destined for food—not only raw agricultural products but processing enzymes, yeasts, extractions, and other genetically engineered minor ingredients as well," OTA said in written comments submitted to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
OTA pointed out that organic producers take great care to offer customers a quality product with only the limited use of synthetic processing materials or ingredients. "Now, producers are faced with not only the problem of contamination in the field but, more fundamentally, even the inability to be sure they are choosing non-genetically engineered minor ingredients—because they are not labeled. The burden of labeling should not be on the producers of conventional or organic food.
They are not the ones introducing this new technology. The burden should be on the companies seeking to market these novel products."
OTA also supports the consumer’s right to know and to choose foods and other products based on environmental, personal health, religious, dietary or other preferences.
"Labeling of GMO products or products containing GMOs is necessary to making these choices," OTA said.
In addition to urging FDA to adopt mandatory labeling for GMO foods, OTA has requested that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency halt the use of GMOs, especially Bt plants. The comment to EPA was filed in response to Monsanto’s application for experimental use permits for three new strains of Bt corn. Spelling out how Bt plants are harmful to organic agriculture, OTA called the introduction of Bt plants without extensive scientific study "irresponsible."
"Because of EPA’s lack of oversight and consequent ignorance of the negative effects of Bt plant pesticides, including the effects on non-target species, EPA must now take significant steps to regain public confidence. Until a transparent and scientifically rigorous process for setting conditions for registration is established, these steps should include a moratorium on the registration of genetically modified plant pesticides," OTA told EPA.
Urging EPA to immediately rescind the registrations of any low- or moderate-dose plant pesticides, OTA added, "If EPA chooses not to enact a moratorium on further registrations, it should require and monitor scientifically sized refugia." Thus, at the very least, OTA wrote, EPA should review and revise its policy regarding buffer zones, incorporate independent ecological field studies, and insist on the creation of buffer zones around Bt crops as part of the requirement for the use of Bt corn.
January 14, 2000
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