Organic Trade Group Loses Farmer Members Over Controversial GMO Labeling Bill

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Organic Trade Group Loses Farmer Members Over Controversial GMO Labeling Bill

Controversy over support of the GMO labeling bill introduced by Senators Stabenow (D-MI) and Roberts (R-KS) has prompted a group of organic farmers to withdraw their membership from the Organic Trade Association (OTA), the leading organic trade group, which supports the legislation.

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) says the OTA has misled its constituents by supporting the labeling bill that would give more power to manufacturers and make it difficult for consumers to identify the presence of genetically modified organisms in packaged foods. The Stabenow-Roberts bill (S.764) overrides Vermont’s GMO labeling bill that went into effect earlier this month, and would allow manufacturers to place smart phone activated QR codes on packaging or telephone numbers in place of a statement announcing the presence of GMOs.

In a statement released by OSGATA, the group alleges a “close partnership” between the OTA and Monsanto, the poster corporation for the biotech industry.

“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. In an effort to protect their own bottom lines and those of their parent companies, the reckless actions of these large parent-owned organic companies threaten the survival of organic farmers and the organic community we have all worked so hard for decades to build.”

OSGATA was an OTA member for eight years, but the group says numerous members have “become distressed” in recent years because of the OTA’s support of corporations instead of family farmers. In 2015 the OTA supported a divisive proposal that would have levied an involuntary tax on organic farmers, a move OSGATA says was misrepresented to its members by the OTA. OSGATA says the OTA also presented its member constituents as fully supporting the Stabenow-Roberts GMO bill to the Senate under false pretenses, “the truth was the exact opposite,” the group says.

“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,” said Gerritsen. “Effective immediately, the farmer-run organic seed trade group OSGATA resigns from OTA and we call on other honest organic organizations and companies to do the same.”

OSGATA is run by certified organic farmers, organic seed companies, seed professionals, affiliate organizations, and individuals. In 2011, the group sued Monsanto to protect its member farmers from litigation by Monsanto should the company’s patented GMO seeds contaminate organic crops inadvertently through crop drift.

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Farmer image via Shutterstock 

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