( USDA )

U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Marketing and Regulatory Programs Greg Ibach stirred a hornet’s nest when he recently said the agency’s National Organic Program may consider whether gene-edited crops could be allowed for organic growers.

In July 17 comments to the House Committee on Agriculture’s subcommittee on biotechnology, horticulture, and research, Ibach said the process of gene editing could help organic breeders create varieties resistant to drought and disease.

“I think there is the opportunity to open the discussion to consider whether it is appropriate for some of these new technologies, that include gene editing, to be eligible to be used to enhance organic production,” Ibach told the committee.

The Cornucopia Institute, an organic advocacy group, its website that it “vehemently” disagrees with Ibach’s statement.

In a July 31 letter posted on their website to Ibach and to the House Agriculture subcommittee on biotechnology and horticulture, the group said the organic marketplace is premised on being free from genetic modification.

“Ibach’s statements, in specific reference to gene-editing technology that alters only a plant’s existing genome, may have been an attempt to test the organic waters for acceptance,” the group said. “But organic consumers do not want gene-edited food.” 

The group cited a 2017 survey conducted by Natural Grocers, in which 70% of respondents said they buy organic specifically to avoid GMOs. 

“The organic label promises food produced without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers, without antibiotics or other harmful pharmaceuticals, and without genetic engineering,” the group said. “Ignoring the fundamental intent of the USDA organic label renders it meaningless and threatens the $52.5 billion industry.”

Inviting supporters to file a petition objecting to Ibach’s comments, the Cornucopia Institute said 
“gene-editing techniques are not needed to resolve problems resulting from drought, pest resistance, and other challenges.”

“Instead of inviting chemical and biotechnology companies into organic agriculture, the USDA and House Agriculture Subcommittee should provide farmers the financial support they need to develop new cultivars that are not genetically engineered,” the group said.

Max Goldberg, founder of Organic Insider, said on the group’s website that the idea of gene-edited organic foods is a non-starter.

“For nearly everyone in our industry, the mere idea of having a discussion about allowing gene editing in organic is nothing short of heresy,” he said.

Submitted by Tim on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 13:19

Dont let that happen organic is not gmo...

Submitted by Tim on Wed, 09/25/2019 - 13:19

Dont let that happen organic is not gmo...

Submitted by Lori Picarella on Mon, 09/30/2019 - 12:59

No! We as consumers have the right to eat Organic foods without GMOS!! Taking our options away is wrong. Fake food will make you sick in time! That's common knowledge...

Submitted by Dixie Oyler on Thu, 10/03/2019 - 18:48

Please! This is so ridiculous! The reason we buy and eat organic is to GET AWAY from GMOs and additives. Don't even think vof doing this to our organic foods!

Submitted by Don I. Waldo on Fri, 10/04/2019 - 07:13

Crops are modified for a reason, and that reason is, most often, to grow resistance to herbicides and pesticides so that they may be doused with the stuff. In doing so, the chemical companies get to sell more of their toxic products, consumers be damned... We don’t need this sort of “progress” in our lives or in are DNA. “Organic” should mean just that. Let US decide which crops we prefer; but don’t try to trick us into purchasing what you want us to purchase just so that we can prop up a business model that, apparently, can’t stand on its own without outside help.

Submitted by Vivian E. on Fri, 10/04/2019 - 10:32

We want organics with NO GMOs!!!

Submitted by Linda on Sun, 10/06/2019 - 00:22

gmos in all foods need to STOP. They are toxic and PLEASE do not consider adding them to organic food. They are dangerous to our health!

Submitted by Maeve on Sun, 10/06/2019 - 23:02

No thank you! We all buy organic for a reason, to stay away from all of the genetically altered food that is poisoning our food supply. Arg!! This is so upsetting.

Submitted by Paul Hummel on Sat, 10/12/2019 - 11:46

These GMO crop scientists are seriously morons who know nothing about the natural world. Learn and study Permaculture, Regenerative farming. There is no need for your poisoned mindset, and Draconian thinking. We wont stand for it.✊ NO GMO'S ANYWHERE.

Submitted by Sandra Markland on Fri, 03/13/2020 - 09:45

Very upset to think gene editing is even considered for organically grown. NO GMO's!