Can Genetically Modified Foods Be Organic?
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