World’s First Organic GMO Opposed By Some GMO Executives

Mischa Popoff Policy Advisor, Heartland Institute
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Ladies and gentlemen, we have a problem…

I just got off the phone with Jack A. Bobo. Nice guy — just a little confused.

Jack is the Chief Communications Officer at Intrexon Corporation, owners of the GMO Arctic Apple and GMO AquAdvantage Salmon. He reached out after we announced plans to grow the world’s first organic GMO back in early November. But rather than applaud our effort, he said his board of directors is worried about upsetting the organic industry. As such, they are not interested.

I heard the exact same thing from Doug Pchajek, a civil servant in the Ministry Agriculture in my home province of Saskatchewan, one of the leading jurisdictions in advancing GMO farming back in the 1990s when it was first introduced. Doug objected more sternly to our plan, claiming that, “The reality is that GMOs cannot be organic, regardless of what the rules say!” and went on to warn that producing the world’s first organic GMO will deny organic farmers the ability to market their organic crops, which is patently false.

My colleagues and I naturally expected objections from organic activists. But it came as a complete surprise to learn of pro-GMO people caving in to the baseless demands of those who seek to take farming back in time.

Is there an actual reason – legal or scientific – why we shouldn’t make use of the organic industry’s rules to grow an organic GMO crop? Are these rules only for “true believers” and “fellow travelers”? Why did the leaders of the organic industry write rules if they never planned to adhere to them?

GMO developers, marketers and farmers all adhere to the letter and spirit of the law when it comes to researching, developing, field-testing and growing GMOs. But the organic industry appears to be held to a lower standard by perfectly-intelligent people like Jack and Doug.

The leaders of the organic industry misuse tax dollars to attack the safety and agronomic efficiency of GMOs, and are working towards the complete banishment of this field of science. All we’re doing is responding, in kind, through the very rules for organic production that they wrote, because it is our belief that to infringe upon science – let alone ban it – would be unprecedented over the last 382 years of the history of science.

Jack and Doug are certainly entitled to their opinions. But their dissent was not by any means passive. Both actually warned of dire consequences!

Who knows? Perhaps they’ll change their minds after we achieve our goal, and will participate in helping us produce the world’s second organic GMO crop.

Failing that, we must conclude that Intrexon and the government of Saskatchewan are not the least-bit interested in healing the rift that exists between organic and GMO farming, a rift that was created entirely by organic activists for purely self-serving reasons. In fact, their faint-heartedness will serve only to widen this rift.

As it turns out, we already have a company that’s interested in going first. And fortunately, that’s all we need to defend the science of genetic engineering from organic-activist attacks.

You’ve got to be in the game to change the game. And that’s where we aim to be on behalf of all farmers.

Mischa Popoff is a former USDA organic inspector, the author of Is it Organic?, and a policy adviser for The Heartland Institute.