Ethan A. Huff
July 15, 2016
A number of farmer and consumer advocacy groups are breaking ties with the influential Organic Trade Association (OTA), after it was discovered that the membership-based organization, which represents the entire organic industry in both Canada and the United States, sold out to Big Agribusiness by extending its support to the Stabenow-Roberts Bill, which many are now referring to as the Monsanto “DARK” Act 2.0.
The farmer-owned Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) was one of the first groups to jump ship from OTA, citing the organization’s “duplicity towards organic farmers and consumers,” with its support for legislation that preempts existing state laws like those of Vermont and Connecticut that mandate proper labeling for genetically modified organisms (GMOs). OSGATA is outraged that OTA would betray its members by throwing its support behind efforts to un-label GMOs in order to pander to the likes of Monsanto.
OTA announced on June 27 that, based on the current situation surrounding the GMO labeling saga, it was more important for the trade group to prioritize the reinforcement of standards for organic foods and
the organic label in general, than to try to fight the Stabenow-Roberts Bill, which a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assessment found will end up exempting most or all GMOs from having to be labeled.
According to OTA, this compromise of a bill was inevitable, “with or without us,” and OTA’s primary mission is to protect the integrity of the organic label, not to hash out a labeling standard for GMO food. But groups like OSGATA aren’t convinced, especially since OTA had the option to reject the Stabenow-Roberts Bill, but didn’t.
“It’s important for the world to understand that it was the Organic Trade Association that killed our state GMO labeling laws by backing Monsanto’s Stabenow-Roberts bill,” Maine organic seed farmer and longtime OSGATA president, Jim Gerritsen, said in a statement.
“It’s clear that Organic Trade Association has come under the control of a small group of lobbyists controlled by giant-food corporations that also own organic brands. … The Organic Trade Association can no longer be trusted, and it’s clear that organic farmers can no longer condone this dubious trade association’s troubling behavior.”
OTA’s support for GMO un-labeling highlights rift between ‘organic elite’ and ‘authentic organic’
Part of the problem with the organic industry today is that a lot of major food corporations, many of which peddle conventional foods loaded with unlabeled GMOs, have hopped on the growing organic train in an attempt to court healthy shoppers over to the dark side. Everyone knows that the organic food sector is growing by leaps and bounds year after year, and Big Food can see the writing on the wall: If a food company wants to stay in business, it has to cater to consumers who want clean food free of GMOs and other poisons.
But, as these companies have adopted the organic label and weaseled their way into positions of power at organizations like OTA, organic standards have taken a hit, as have efforts to mandate GMO labeling laws that benefit the People rather than corporations. Carey Gillam, a journalist and research director at the non-profit U.S. Right to Know group, says a rift is growing in which the “organic elite” – Big Food corporations peddling their own organic lines – are now at odds with the smaller “authentic organic” businesses and groups that started the organic food industry in the first place.
A national GMO labeling scheme is what both groups say they want. But, when push comes to shove, the big guys are more interested in passing toothless legislation like the Stabenow-Roberts Bill that won’t do a thing to make true GMO labeling any more of a reality than it currently is, with no labeling laws on the books at all.
The good news is that GMOs aren’t even a concern if you grow your own food at home, and the backyard Vertical Garden Tower helps make that possible.