25 comments on “Organics Vs. GMOs: Why The Debate?

    • Isn’t it though – I only wish I had written it myself! This is the type of article that, I fear, will rally the troops on both sides of the argument.

  1. Now that is an amazing piece of work! How can we start holding these anti-everything folks accountable for all the blind children in developing countries that could be receiving Golden Rice? This is a total crime against humanity.

  2. Hi Julee, While I appreciated the defense of GMOs and the related science offered by the article, the attack on organic food and farming was extremely biased and outright false in many respects. I go into more detail in my comment on the original article, and I’d welcome follow-up questions here, on that piece, or on my own blog, where I touch on many of these topics.

    It’s really unfortunate that the authors of this piece couldn’t have let their argument in favour of GMOs stand on its own merits, instead of perpetuating the false dichotomy they claim to be attempting to overcome by spreading false and misleading information about organics.

      • I appreciate your addition to the comment thread. The part about organics that got my attention, and was essentially my takeaway, was the fact that organic products have caused documented illness and death. To date, the same can not be said of GMOs. I do think that is an important point. I have nothing against organic food and eat it often… just want people to accept GMOs! And I see no reason why the two can’t go hand in hand, as the article also states.

      • The claim that “organic food” has caused illness and death while GMOs has not is one of the most spurious false parallels I’ve ever seen. ALL food has the potential for microbial contamination, REGARDLESS of the technology or methods used to produce it. Yes, there have been unfortunate cases of microbial contamination in organic food, but this is because it was food, not because it was organic. There is NO EVIDENCE to suggest that organic products pose any higher risks than any other type of food, GMOs included. I explore this in more detail at http://bit.ly/16Ubwli

      • To put it a bit more accurately, no harm or deaths have occurred from a food being GM, just because it was GM. Nor did it being GM enhance any other risk. There is evidence that some GM foods, like BT corn, actually reduce food risks slightly by avoiding fungal infections that produce rather potent toxins, regardless of whether the GM crop was raised organically or conventionally.

  3. Obviously just being organic doesn’t cause death and illness. I never meant to imply that, only that people had grown ill and died as a result of eating something labeled organic, and clearly, food poisoning can occur in any kind of food, GMO included. Comparing organic and GMO is really apples and oranges when it comes to food borne illnesses.

    I was just trying to make a point and say that, hey, the halo above organic products needs to be looked at with as close a scrutiny as the skull and crossbones is over GMOs.

  4. Rob Wallbridge (songberryfarm); You wrote about co-existance between GM and non GM alfalfa on your blog. I have a question:

    When you say the Organic alfalfa was, “contaminated”, by GM alfalfa, how much mixing was there? Wasn’t the GM alfalfa also contaminated by the Organic alfalfa?

    Now i’m not a farmer but whenever i buy a bag of grass seed, it always comes with a disclaimer stating that the seed may contain X% of noxious weed seeds. I can’t imagine that when a farmer buys large quantities of seeds, he really expects, and gets, 100.000000000% pure seeds of whatever strain he’s purchasing.

    Another question, why do Organic standards insist upon 0.0000000…0% mixing with GM, especially when GM is as least as safe as any other strain? You might say, well GMO’s produce their own insecticides/pesticides, but that isn’t true about RR alfalfa, the specific crop in your article, and the only insecticide now produced by any GMO is Bt, an approved class of insecticides for organic growing.

  5. I’ve addressed for first two questions on my blog (http://bit.ly/1hwJ3mT) (including the fact that the Washington case did not involve organic alfalfa).
    As for the zero tolerance for GMO presence in organic products, that’s the way the standards are written, and I can’t give you a definitive answer why that is so. I would venture to say that consumer preference/pressure has had a lot to do with it. Of course, organic products do not claim to be 100% free of other prohibited substances (like synthetic pesticides) because the standards recognize that trace levels of these substances are ubiquitous in the environment. My own opinion right now is that a similar concession will also need to be made in the case of GMOs, but that’s an extremely contentious issue, and my position puts me soundly in the minority of the organic community at the present.

    • Forgive me Rob, but i still can’t seem to find a number to that,”low level”,presence of GM material in the non-GM crop? If it was later found that there was no GM mixing with the Washington case, do we know why there was a false positive?

      It’s interesting you borught up the Apple phone as an example of playing nice with everybody else. CE, CSA, TUV, UL, InMetro and other electric safety and interference approval agencies do allow a certain amount of interference to be tolerated AND require the products (both old (when redesigns come up) and new) to be tolerant of a certain amount of interference directed at them. They recognize that whenever a charge moves, EM waves are generated. It seems that the Organic standard wants only the conventional to cause no interference while they are allowed to remain totally intolerant for all time.

    • Sorry about my misunderstanding. You did state no numerical value of mixing was ever reported and that no organic alfalfa was involved.

    • songberryfarm, your statement about organic products “do not claim to be 100% free of other prohibited substances” is the first time I have ever seen any organic farmer finally admit that organics are not substance free, as consumers have been led to be believe. Organic corn is keeping the crop dusters in business in the panhandle of Texas, spraying “organic” chemicals on the “organic” corn over and over and over. In fact, they are buying new planes to keep up with demand. When I put this on my facebook page a few weeks back, consumers were astounded. They believe that nothing but air and water touch their “organic” corn. I am a conventional cotton farmer and have eliminated all insecticide usage on my farm by using GM cottonseed, helping to put the crop dusters out of business. Your frustration that I see in your responses on this blog are frustrations that we as conventional farmers have been fighting for years: “the attack on organic food and farming was extremely biased and outright false in many respects” Just strike organic and insert conventional, and join our frustrations.

      • “They believe that nothing but air and water touch their ‘organic’ corn.”

        Suzie I love your comment above. Further evidence that there is this widespread belief that organic products are somehow free of pest pressures.

  6. Hi First Officer,
    My understanding is that additional testing did confirm the presence of GMO alfalfa in the crop, at which point the USDA declined further involvement (so no false positive, but no reported value either).

    Thanks for the insight regarding electrical interference – I find that really interesting. As I commented on my own blog, my primary point is that tolerances for this type of “interference”/”contamination” should be negotiated and established in advance of new products entering the marketplace so that farmers don’t end up bearing all the costs and consequences of the inevitable mixing.

    • You’re welcome, Rob. Your point is well taken in theory. But i have to say it’s extremely difficult in practice. Take digital photography for example. The easy forseeable interference was its competition with film. But who knew in 1990 that it’ll end up in phones and severely limit the sales of all cameras, especially low end ones, as Kodak found out? Or that the internet would wipe out film rentals? Have you seen a typewriter lately? In the case of crops, wouldn’t you have the same problem if you were trying to grow purebred non-gmo X-strain of corn if your neighbor grew non-gmo Y-strain corn ? And, if the Organic farmer promised his customer(s) mathematically 0% non-gm, how does that make it his gmo farmer neighbor’s problem? Especially when he wasn’t even part of the deal? (I know you do believe in non-zero thresholds that are reasonable, so, please, excuse my writing for the audience at large. )

      You are right that some sort of forethought should be put into it. But, i hope, you are not advocating that every scenario imaginable be investigated before any deployment of the new tech. Under that kind of requirement, nohting new would ever be allowed to made.

      Speaking of mathematically 0%, The document that i found on the OTA’s site, does that have any bearing in real life? Or do folks like the OCA and others really do insist on mathematically 0% mixing, regardless?

  7. http://www.ota.com/pics/documents/OTA-GMO-White-Paper.pdf

    Scroll to the bottom.

    “Action Thresholds set during current Non-GMO Project program-wide variance : 0.25% for planting seed and other propagation materials; 0.9% for human food, products, ingredients, supplements, and personal care products; 1.5% for animal feed and supplements”

    Apparently, It may be just a common misconception that it has to be 0.000000% mixing ?

    (repeating myself from the Songberryfarm blog)

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