GMO Labeling of Organic Products Takes a Step Forward

For years, the Organic Trade Association has supported efforts to bring federal mandatory GMO labeling to the United States. Senators Roberts and Stabenow have introduced a federal labeling bill that not only requires disclosure of GMO ingredients, but also includes important provisions that are excellent for organic farmers and food makers – and for the millions of consumers who choose organic every day - because they recognize, unequivocally, that USDA Certified Organic products qualify for non-GMO claims in the market place. Those provisions safeguard USDA certified organic as the gold standard for transparency and non-GMO status. Without the citizen-led efforts in Vermont and other states, this compromise bill would never have come to fruition. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) applauds Senator Stabenow for championing the USDA Organic seal, and for protecting organic as the original assurance of non-GMO ingredients and more, while crafting a mandatory federal solution to the challenging and controversial debate on GMO labeling and consumer transparency.

Joining 64 countries across the world, consumer products in the United States, with certain defined exceptions, will be required to label if they contain GMOs. Important clarifying additions include that products that are not required to label (such as products of animals fed GMO feed) do not automatically qualify for non-GMO claims in the marketplace. This bill reinforces Organic as the original non-GMO market claim and assures consumers that the USDA organic seal is the gold standard for consumers looking to avoid GMO’s, toxic pesticides, and so much more.

On the surface, we understand how some may be fundamentally dissatisfied with supporting this compromise solution because it includes an option to reveal the presence of GMOs through technology that would require a smartphone and internet access. But it also covers more products than the Vermont Law if it goes into effect. When it comes to protecting organic agriculture and trade, we have to take the long view. If you consider what the opponents of GMO labeling proposed, and what the voluntary and state by state options would have offered, it’s hard not to see how this mandatory federal legislation is a constructive solution to a complex issue. The recognition in law that certified organic is non-GMO and can always make that claim is an enormous win.

Transparency has always been a foundational principle for organic and this national, mandatory bill takes an important step forward in providing more information for all consumers. As this GMO labeling bill is enacted and implemented, OTA hopes that all companies, faced with the choice of how to disclose GMO ingredients, will choose to print a simple and clear statement of GMO content on the product label as the most effective and transparent way to communicate with consumers.

In closing, OTA stresses that the simplest and surest way today to be guaranteed that the products they buy are non-GMO is to look for USDA Organic.

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This article was submitted by the Organic Trade Association (OTA). The views, opinions, and positions expressed by guest bloggers are those of the author/authoring organization and do not represent those of CCOF. CCOF has not taken a position on the recently-introduced federal GMO labeling bill at this time, and is monitoring its progress closely. 

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 8,500 organic businesses across 50 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. Organic products represented include organic foods, ingredients and beverages, as well as organic fibers, personal care products, pet foods, nutritional supplements, household cleaners and flowers. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. 
 
OTA’s member organic businesses work together through networking, advocacy, and other initiatives to encourage and protect organic farming practices, and to share messages about the positive environmental and nutritional attributes of organic products with consumers, the media, and policymakers. 

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