Agri-business News USDA Organic Sign

Published on September 28th, 2010 | by Becky Striepe

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Can Genetically Modified Foods Be Organic?

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USDA Organic Sign

The current USDA guidelines do not allow GM crops to be certified organic, but not everyone thinks the two are mutually exclusive.

“The Unexplored Potential of Organic-Biotech Production” was a Global Agriculture Information Network report stating that “the divide between organics and biotechnology is an artificial construction maintained by ideology rather than science.” The pro-GMO report was recently pulled from the USDA website after consumer outcry, but that doesn’t mean Big Agriculture companies like ADM and Monsanto aren’t pressuring the USDA behind the scenes.

The report was posted in May of 2009 by the Foreign Agriculture service, an agency that does not have a say when it comes to organic standards. Still, it stayed up on the USDA website with no comment from the agency until they pulled it down last month.

Arguing that biotechnology could benefit organic crops, the report also states:

Allowing producers to gain organic certification for biotech crops could encourage the development of a new type of environmentally sustainable agricultural production with greater benefits for the consumer.

People opposed to GM foods cite a number of safety, health, and biodiversity concerns. Evidence of organ damage in mammals or the threat of these crops propagating in the wild are certainly reasons to be cautious about genetically engineered crops.

Biodiversity is one of the cornerstones of organic agriculture, and when you’re talking about planting genetically modified crops, it inherently means focusing on one sort of seed. When farmers start planting GM versions, they’re replacing indigenous crops. Reliance on one species leaves the food supply more vulnerable to disease or pest infestation.

Right now, buying organic is really the only way consumers can be sure that certain foods like corn and soybeans aren’t genetically modified, since the FDA and USDA haven’t supported consumer calls to label genetically engineered foods.

Proponents of genetic engineering claim benefits like reduced reliance on pesticides and increased yields.

So, what do you guys think? Can a genetically modified organism be organic?

Source: Organic Consumers Association

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by Tim Psych

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About the Author

My name is Becky Striepe (rhymes with “sleepy”), and I am a crafts and food writer from Atlanta, Georgia with a passion for making our planet a healthier, happier, and more compassionate place to live. My mission is to make vegan food and crafts accessible to everyone!. If you like my work, you can also find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .



  • http://Web Eric Baumholder

    Organic advocates are not nice people. Their favorite advertising practice is to slander other farmers. This means, it would be best for farming worldwide if the organic industry went out of business. The best way to do this is to have organic standards so strict that they are impossible to meet. So, I recommend GM crops being *not* organic.

    • http://Web Helene

      wow Eric, I don’t know what type of Organic advocates you’ve come across – I think they’re just trying to make sure they can have access to foods that aren’t GMO. This would mean that people would be able to choose if they want to be a part of this “test” experiment. There are no long term studies that prove GMO foods are safe, anyone will tell you that, and the results of studies that are starting to come in are anything but positive.

      If you’re fine with GMO foods, then it should be your right to consume them just as it should be my right to choose not to.

      Just for the record, i haven’t met any organic advocates that weren’t nice :)

      • http://Web Joseph Putnoki

        This is a propaganda versus truth war. Inept, ignorant and/or corrupt or both regulatory authorities being cowed by the industrial might of predatory and evil business like Monsanto. Complicit are also writers and attorneys who sold their soul to the Devil. Just look up the websites about Arpad Pusztai and learn the documented facts that demolishes Karl Haro von Mogel’s claim that “GE crops cause organ damage is doubly-false” and Eric Baumholder whose venomous lies are toxic and insulting! Their only benefit could be if their cadavers were to become part of a compost heap.-

        Be well!

        joseph.

        • http://Web Jacques Cuse

          “Their only benefit could be if their cadavers were to become part of a compost heap.-”

          Source: Eat Drink Better (http://s.tt/12A9K)

          Oh no, noooo, their rotten to the core minds could only thrive in very unhealthy bodies and that would not be good for the quality of the compost. Better would be to beautify the world: Plant a GMO advocate, DEEP!

          Cheers!
          J.C.

  • Jeannie Moulton

    Organic + Biotech = Not organic.

  • http://Web Sacrednature

    Since the FDA does not allow non-GMO foods to be labeled as such, the organic seal is the ONLY label currently available to consumers that will allow them to avoid GMO. There is no way for the FDA to justify including GM crops in organic labeling unless and until they require GM foods to be labeled that way. Let the consumers decide what they want to eat, it’s unfair and undemocratic to allow multi-national, multi-billion dollar companies to hide their potentially dangerous products within the food supply. I can hardly think of anything more disgustingly undemocratic.

    In the countries where GM labeling has been required, consumers rejected it. As they have a right to.

  • http://www.biofortified.org Karl Haro von Mogel

    It is not true that the FDA does not allow foods to be labeled as Non-GMO, in fact that is one of the voluntary labels that they suggest in their guidelines. They do not want companies to label their products as “GMO Free” because that implies a 100% lack of GE foods, which has to be proven and is in most cases not even true.

    In fact, there is a labeling organization called the Non-GMO Project which itself states that Organic is not a guarantee of food being non-GMO. (Keep in mind, this organization is controlled by Whole Foods and other food companies that stand to profit off of this venture.)

    I co-run a blog called Biofortified (www.biofortified.org) and one of our editors is Pam Ronald, a rice geneticist married to an organic farmer, Raoul Adamchak. They co-wrote a book called Tomorrow’s Table, which outlines exactly how genetic engineering and organic can mesh together, I suggest you check us (and the book) out. (Just because people always ask, no I do not work for any biotech companies)
    The claim that GE crops cause organ damage is doubly-false. It is based on a paper published last year that claimed to find “signs of toxicity” after reanalyzing Monsanto feeding trial data. But if you read the paper, they clearly state that they did NOT find toxicity, and in fact their statistical analysis ruled out the effects they found as being false positives. So you have a claim made based on a paper that did not make that claim, that itself didn’t find much of anything. Unfortunately the paper was so convoluted and difficult to understand even by experts that few have bothered to find out what it actually said.

    As a supporter of organic agriculture myself, I can safely say that I do not agree with Eric Baumholder’s opinion that the organic industry should go out of business.

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  • http://www.ultragod.com Heathen Gliebe

    Von Mogel…. The marriage between a rice geneticist and an organic farmer sounds like a member of the Taliban marrying a Buddhist or something. Two vastly different worlviews; it’ll be interesting to see how long THAT relationship works out for them unless it’s all sex and no talk, lmao.

    As far as Organic goes, it NEEDS to be 100% GMO free besides free of all other spray on chemicals and additives. People want to buy the healthiest, PUREST foods possible and are either going to pay a lot of money for it, or just end up growing their own foods which many are already doing.

    The reality is that there has not been nearly enough long term testing done on the effects of these GM crops on not only people’s health, but the effects it’s having on our planet and ecosystem as a whole. This is reckless and irresponsible all in the name of profit???? I’m disgusted with what is going on here in this country (AmeriKa) and am embarrassed that we are so hellbent on money that we are willing to potentially screw up the entire world’s food supply. The next big question is, how do we destroy these GMO crops and rid the Earth of them entirely???? Or is it toooooo late????

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  • http://Web Barb Klimkowski

    Hello! By definition a GMO (genetically modified organism) cannot be considered organic. Plain and simple. this is a non-issue. Why did you even ask this question?

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/beckyanne/ Becky Striepe

      As I mentioned in the article, the question arose because USDA was considering modifying the definition of organic to include GMOs.

  • http://Web Debby

    NO! Your messing with mother nature. Genetically Modified is just that “Genetically Modified” Certainly not Organic.

  • http://Web NoGMO

    Why Not Label GMO Foods What Makes Them Different Then Other Company Thats Forced To Label Products? Why Do They GEt A PASS?O I Think I Know Why They Paid Off The FDA Treason BASTARDS All Of You BASTARDS ARE GOING TO JAIL!!!!!!

  • http://Web Tanin

    GM foods can be grown organically right? Meaning no chemical pesticide/insecticides.

    • http://importantmedia.org/members/beckyanne/ Becky Striepe

      I’d assume so, though some, like bt corn, have insecticides spliced right into their genetic code.

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