Genetically Modified Organisms/Genetic Engineering

Say "No" to GMOs!

CCOF opposes the commercialization and use of genetically engineered (GE) crops and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because of the threat they pose to organic growers and consumers. Organic farmers shouldn’t have to carry the burden of trying to protect their crops from being cross-pollinated with genetically engineered varieties. Consumers have the right to know what they are eating. By purchasing organic foods, you can be confident that you aren’t getting GMOs in your food.

GMOs are made with genetic engineering, a technology that takes DNA from one organism and moves it into another, creating new varieties of plants and animals that wouldn’t be found in nature. Genetic engineering is prohibited in organic food and farming because of concerns about its environmental and potential health repercussions. Although biotechnologists experiment with genetically modifying plants for taste or nutrition, the majority of GE crops are engineered to resist herbicides such as Roundup and the highly volatile Dicamba, resulting in increased use of these chemical herbicides.

Prohibition of GMOs is central to the definition of organic. In 1997, the first draft of the National Organic Program (NOP) standards was released. To a shocked organic community, the “big three”—irradiation, GMOs, and sewage sludge—had been incorporated into the rule. Nearly 280,000 people nationwide wrote letters, emails, and faxes to contest the inclusion of the “big three” in the organic standards, and their actions paid off. These practices were banned from organic production. This issue generated more comments than any other issue in the history of the USDA at that time.

However, implementation of this ban can be tricky. Pollen from plants can be hard—sometimes impossible—to contain as wind and animals carry it far and wide, causing cross-pollination with other plants. Additionally, seedstocks of certain crops with GMO equivalents, including corn, can be contaminated with GM sequences even if they are not labeled or sold as a GM variety.

CCOF at Work

CCOF works to keep GMOs out of our fields and out of our food. We support consumers' right to know what is in their food through labeling of GE products. The CCOF Board of Directors approved an organizational GMO Policy Position in 2014 that specifies:

  1. CCOF shall continue to call for a moratorium on GMOs in agriculture.
  2. CCOF supports mandatory labeling of all agricultural GMOs and their products.
  3. CCOF shall also adopt policies that address the problems the industry shall face as a result of continued GMO deregulation.
  4. CCOF shall bolster organic as the gold standard by advocating for continuous improvement of the organic practice standard—which includes establishing a GMO threshold for crops that have genetically engineered counterparts into the NOP regulations at the appropriate time.
  5. CCOF shall advocate for policies that assign the cost of contamination prevention and market loss to the developers of GMO technology.
  6. CCOF recognizes the critical role of seed in the supply chain and shall advocate for policies that secure a seed supply to the organic sector that is free of GMOs.
  7. CCOF shall educate the public and policy makers regarding the environmental and health concerns emerging with GMOs.

If you have a concern about GMOs in organic, please contact the CCOF policy team.