The Organic Trade Association, the leading trade group representing the organic industry, is under attack for supporting legislation that invalidated Vermont’s mandatory labeling law for products that contain genetically modified material. Vermont’s law, which went into effect on July 1, is now superseded by federal regulations, the Stabenow-Roberts bill, that prohibits states from enacting their own GMO labeling regulations.
According to a press release from the Organic Consumers Association, nearly sixty organizations that represent millions of U.S. consumers, are calling on major organic companies to abandon their OTA memberships because of its support of the controversial legislation nicknamed the DARK Act (Deny Americans Right to Know).
“OTA’s leadership betrayed the more than 90 percent of Americans who support mandatory labeling of GMOs by working behind the scenes with federal lawmakers to craft a federal law that ensures food corporations will never have to reveal, in plain English on product labels, the GMO ingredients in their products,” Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association, said in a statement.
According to the letter signed by the organizations, including Food Democracy Now!, Center for Food Safety, and Food & Water Watch, OTA Executive Director Laura Batcha endorsed the Stabenow-Roberts legislation because “members of the OTA, and multinational food corporations selling so-called ‘natural foods’ do not want the public to know what’s in their non-organic brands.”
Dr. Bronner’s, a longtime member of the Organic Trade Association withdrew its membership earlier this week citing a “betrayal of the consumer-led GMO labeling movement, and general drift away from the core principles that drive the organic movement.”
In an op-ed for the Huffington Post last month, David Bronner, Cosmic Engagement Officer for Dr. Bronner’s, said the move by the OTA demonstrated “a complete lack of integrity and courage in standing against the biotech agenda.”
Earlier this summer, the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association also renounced its OTA membership.
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“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.
In the wake of the OTA controversy, the Rodale Institute, the world’s leading organic agriculture research organization, has launched a new Organic Farming Association along with an expansion of regional teaching farms in the U.S.
“We encourage all true organic companies, whether they choose to remain a part of the OTA or not, to support and participate in both [Rodale programs],” Bronner said.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to bring organic farmers’ voices and their experience with agriculture to policymakers in Washington, D.C.,” Elizabeth Kucinich, Board Policy Chair for Rodale Institute and head of the Organic Farming Association, said in a statement. “Policymakers have not yet grasped the significance of organic agriculture for resilient, reliable, non-toxic food production, and its ability to mitigate climate change while restoring our nation’s soil health. We have an opportunity to benefit organic farmers, while positively impacting our nation’s health and mitigating our climate crisis.”
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Farmer image via Shutterstock