Opinion
              FILE - In this June 15, 2007, file photo, a customer picks out fruit while shopping at the Hannaford Supermarket in Quincy, Mass. The United States and Japan have agreed to make it easier to import each other

Time for organic activists to stop spreading lies

Photo of Mischa Popoff
Mischa Popoff
Policy Advisor, Heartland Institute
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      Mischa Popoff

      Mischa Popoff grew up on an organic grain farm and worked as a USDA-contract organic inspector. He is the author of the critically acclaimed book, Is it Organic?, a Policy Advisor for The Heartland Institute, and delivers lectures in defense of modern, science-based food production.

Wouldn’t making it in America be easy if you could just pass laws to put your competition out of business? That’s precisely what’s being attempted by anti-GMO organic activists across America today. Rather than win one consumer at a time in the market, attempts are being made to either label foods containing genetically-modified ingredients like a pack of cigarettes, or to simply ban them outright.

For the campaign to ban GMOs outright, we turn to Dr. Lanita Witt, an organic farmer in Oregon. And for the campaign to label GMOs – in spite of the complete lack of evidence that they cause any harm to humans, animals or the environment – we turn to Senator David Zuckerman, an organic farmer and state legislator from Vermont.

Activists like Wit and Zuckerman never tire of pretending that genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) pose a threat to organic farms and the very health of the American public, citing “alarming impacts on industrial agriculture” along with concern “about the long-term health of our nation’s soils, water, flora and fauna.”

But, stop and think. If there was any chance whatsoever that GMO crops might put organic farmers like Wit and Zuckerman at risk, why didn’t organic stakeholders like Wit and Zuckerman say so in their standards for organic production? And why has there never been a single organic farmer who was de-certified, let alone faced disciplinary action, for alleged “contamination” of his crops by GMOs?

The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) makes no mention whatsoever of GMOs contaminating or in any way undermining the organic integrity of organic crops. Full stop. Either people like Dr. Witt and Sen. Zuckerman are ignorant of the actual rules of organic production in America, or they are willfully ignoring federal laws on organic production that were written, edited and finalized by American organic stakeholders during the Clinton Administration.

There is no basis to Wit’s claim that GMO crops “put our family farmers at risk,” or that they endanger, as Zuckerman claims, the “health of our nation’s soils, water, flora and fauna.” In fact, such statements could very well be interpreted as defamatory being that they are based neither upon science nor, as mentioned, the very laws for organic production that organic stakeholders like Witt and Zuckerman helped write! Such statements are, at the very least, a form of false advertising for the tax-subsidized American organic movement.

The organic industry has grown exponentially over the very same time as the use of GMO crops on American farms has grown. So why lie and pretend GMOs pose some sort of risk? Clearly if there was any threat posed by GMOs to organic farming in America, the American organic industry wouldn’t today be worth more than all of Major League Baseball combined. If anything, it would appear that the existence of GMOs is good for the organic industry.

As Zuckerman himself admits, campaigns to force the labelling of GMO foods, alongside attempts to ban them outright, are “all, for lack of a better word, organic.” Ha ha — how droll, Mr. Zuckerman. But in all seriousness, is this really what being organic in America has come to mean? Attacking technologies that you disagree with?

The organic industry is really just a federal marketing system, as Clinton’s Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman stressed: “Let me be clear about one thing. The organic label is a marketing tool. It is not a statement about food safety. Nor is ‘organic’ a value judgment about nutrition or quality.”

On behalf of the hundreds-of-thousands of American farmers who choose to grow GMO crops, Dr. Witt and Sen. Zuckerman should stop spreading fear over this perfectly-safe and highly-beneficial form of agricultural technology.

Instead of attacking their competition with misguided and decidedly unscientific political gambits, Witt and Zuckerman should quietly return to tending to their organic crops, and stand on their own merit. Who knows? They might even enjoy not being so darn negative all the time.