Genetically modified seeds are the No. 1 threat facing the organic industry in 2011, according to a panel of natural food pioneers who met last week at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, California, Lisa Marshall writes in NewHope360.
Stonyfield Farms president Gary Hirshberg, United Natural Foods' Michael Funk, Organic Valley’s George Siemon and a host of others told a packed auditorium that GM seeds threaten organic farmers who want to keep their seed clean and consumers who want to preserve their right to buy non-GMO products. More than 93 percent of soy and 86 percent of corn in the United States is genetically modified, and even products labeled “organic” can’t claim to be GMO-free because of increasing seed contamination.
“After 30-some-years, we have found ourselves at a crossroads,” said Hirshberg. “If we miss this opportunity, our children will never forgive us.”
Conventional farmers who use pesticide- and herbicide-resistant GM seeds use as much as three times more of the toxic chemicals than they did before, the experts said, and GM seeds cost farmers more. The number of “superweeds” resistant to herbicides and pesticides has soared from zero in 1995 to 19 today, thanks in part to GM seeds. Organic farmers, threatened by seed contamination, could ultimately lose their ability to provide consumers GM-free food.
The panel urged manufacturers to join the GMO-Project, which certifies and labels GMO-free products; retailers to support companies with a non-GMO label; and consumers to write their congressional leaders and demand labeling of GMO foods. Soapmaker David Bronner called for a march on Capitol Hill and vowed $25,000 to support the cause.
“This is not David vs. Goliath. This is Godzilla vs. a couple of ants, and we are the ants,” said Funk. “But if you have ever looked closely at ants in the forest, you know that when they come together, they can accomplish a lot.”