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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 protecting organic agriculture and trade from the proliferation of GMO foods and preserving farmer and consumer choice. In 2014, OTA’s Board of Directors voted to adopt an updated and comprehensive policy position on GMOs. Consistent with this position, OTA is working on several fronts to protect organic agriculture from the threat of GMOs. Below is a brief description of our current and on-going projects.


GMO Labeling

OTA Policy Position

OTA supports mandatory federal labeling of all products that are genetically engineered (GMOs). 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, and products made with ingredients and byproducts of GMO crops is necessary for farmer, supply chain and consumer choice and confidence.


OTA Action

For years, the Organic Trade Association has supported efforts to bring federal mandatory GMO labeling to the United States. On July 29, 2016 President Obama signed into law a federal labeling bill that includes important organic provisions that recognize, unequivocally, that USDA Certified Organic products qualify for non-GMO claims in the market place. Those provisions safeguard USDA certified organic as the gold standard for transparency and non-GMO status. On May 4, 2018 USDA published a proposed rule entitled the "National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard and requested stakeholder feedback. Over 14,000 comments were received.

Read OTA's comments to USDA on its Proposed GMO Labeling Rule (Submitted July 2018)

On December 21, USDA published the GMO labeling regulations and put in place for the first time a National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard. Unfortunately, the GMO Disclosure Standard falls short of the promise of the Law and does not deliver a meaningful rule that is accessible to the American public. The Organic Trade Association is deeply disappointed in the outcome of the final rule and calls on companies to voluntarily act on their own to provide full disclosures on their food products about GMO content. Read more.

Read the Organic Trade Association’s response to the final GMO labeling rule     

Organic = Non-GMO and So Much More!


OTA Policy Position

OTA shall bolster organic as the gold standard by advocating for continuous improvement of the organic practice standard.


OTA Action

OTA is working to reinforce consumer understanding that to be organic means – among other things – to be non-GMO. In January of 2014, OTA convened a task force to ensure that organic certification and corresponding National Organic Program certified labels remain the gold standard and to further communicate to consumers that organic = non-GMO, as well as the many other benefits of organic. The task force developed several communication resources designed to help suppliers, retailers and consumers further understand the organic label and the GMO contamination prevention practices required under USDA's National Organic Program. OTA also developed and adopted a position on the labeling of organic products as non-GMO.

View OTA’s comments and related resources        

Protecting Organic Agriculture from GMO Contamination 

OTA Policy Position

OTA shall also adopt policies that address the problems the industry shall face as a result of continued GMO deregulation. OTA shall also advocate for policies that assign the cost of contamination prevention and market loss to the developers of GMO technology. OTA shall also educate the public and policy makers regarding the environmental and health concerns emerging with GMO’s.

OTA Action

  • OTA Executive Director Laura Batcha sits on the USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture – a committee that advises the Secretary of Agriculture on issues related to the application of biotechnology in agriculture, and coexistence among different agricultural production methods. This committee, known as AC21, meets 3-4 times per year in public session to discuss these issues.  Please contact Laura if you have any questions, input, or concerns.
  • OTA successfully advocated for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to pass a recommendation to USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) to develop guidance on GMO contamination prevention strategies. OTA also continues to advocate for additional training and guidance on GMO testing to be used as a tool to monitor effective GMO contamination prevention plans.

View OTA’s comments and related resources    

Seed Issues

OTA Policy Position

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.


OTA Action

In 2012, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) released a discussion document requesting comments on the feasibility of developing a seed purity standard in the organic regulations. The subcommittee suggested that seed may be the most impactful and efficient point in the supply chain at which GMO contamination of organic products could be limited and controlled. NOSB is continuing the conversation on seed purity and continuing to invite comments from the public.

Learn more about OTA’s position and comments to NOSB     

More Resources

OTA’s GMO White Paper (August 2011) OTA’s GMO Policy Position (May 2014)

Scott Rice

Sr. Director, Regulatory Affairs

(202) 695-1268