GMOs And Organics: A Potentially Complicated Relationship

So now that our government has completely deregulated genetically modified alfalfa, and as both studies and case reports have shown that cross-contamination for GMOs is a real and painfully obvious reality, we're going to have to look at our food more carefully than ever before.

Within my personal local foods community, there has been much discussion about the cross-breeding potential of GMOs to organic crops, the effects of which will certainly destroy neighboring organic farms of any size, but specifically small organic farms. In the case of alfalfa, the worry is that the alfalfa that is left to go to seed will cross pollinate; the alfalfa that is cut for fodder will somehow get mixed in with organic dairy fodder, thus destroying organic certification not only of alfalfa farms, but of organic dairy. De-certification is a very costly endeavor in both time and money.

Once a farm is stripped of organic certification, regardless of whose fault it is, it can take up to three years to get certification returned.  Mid-size farms may not be able to endure the backlash that would come with a de-certification due to contamination. Small farms will likely fold. So one has to wonder: what will the USDA do about these cases in wait?

Our local food community wonders if the USDA may start bending some rules to accommodate the plight of the organic farmer because contamination is inevitable in the long run. Even if organic farmers are able to change the fodder as one feed after another becomes contaminated in the biotech hustle, what will happen when all fodder is contaminated to the point of certified organic food being an impossible goal?

Does that sound too extreme? Well, consider that "almost 96% of the commercial vegetable varieties available in 1903 are now extinct." according to SustainableTable.org and it becomes a lot more clear how industry truly dictates the food market. Real Food Market & Deli puts it another way: "In 1900 there were 7,000 varieties of apples in the U.S. Today fewer than 1,000 of those still exist."

It would be wise to keep an eye on the USDA and the National Organic Program (NOP) as more and more genetically modified foods hit the shelves without GMO labeling.  For now, the best we can do when shopping at supermarkets is buy organic.  But eventually, that label won't mean anything. The only real solution will be to get to know your local farmer and take an active part in resourcing your food.  In fact, that's a pretty good idea even right now.

Photo credit: merged public domain images