There’s a lot going on.
In case you missed it, there have been several news stories lately regarding the food system — including some that impact your right to choose whether or not to consume GMOs. As always, the Non-GMO Project continues to advocate for natural, resilient and sustainable food supply, to build and protect our genetic inheritance, and to offer Verified options.
Now, the news roundup.
White House promotes biotechnology… again
President Biden recently issued an executive order to advance biotechnology and biomanufacturing across government agencies and industries — including agriculture. This order blindly promotes biotechnology in the food sector — a misguided and expensive move. It takes the food system in the wrong direction to meet its stated goals of food security and climate adaptation.
We believe that agriculture should work with nature rather than against it. We support expanding holistic, resilient and equitable solutions in the food system. We are deeply concerned about the ongoing privatization of the food supply, which places ever more of our essential resources into the hands of a few multinational corporations.
You can read our statement in response to the executive order here.
Big investment in “Climate-Smart Commodities”
The U.S. government selected the first round of grant recipients under the “Partnerships for Climate Smart Commodities.” The program earmarked $3 billion of the federal budget to reduce GHG emissions and increase carbon sequestration in major food crops and commodity production.
While this is an important first step, it doesn’t go far enough.
The food system desperately needs a bold transition to fully regenerative production. In its current form, the grant program could further subsidize GMO production systems for crops such as soy, corn, cotton and alfalfa. These GMOs are grown using fundamentally harmful methods — vast areas of monocropping with liberal pesticide applications, leading to “superweeds” and “superbugs.” Reducing GHG emissions without addressing the production model’s other major issues is only a partial solution.
We welcome equally ambitious investment in an aggressive transition to diverse, non-GMO agriculture.
USDA packs Standards Board with government employees
The USDA is taking four seats on the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) away from dedicated public volunteers and re-designating them to be filled by “Special Government Employees” (SGEs). The NOSB is a 15-member federal advisory board that makes recommendations on National Organic Program regulations, including which substances or practices to allow or prohibit in organic production.
With the Presidential Executive Order on biotechnology already telegraphing the federal government’s support for GMOs, replacing public representatives with government employees is cause for deep concern. Organic supporters — including the Non-GMO Project — are left wondering if the appointment of government employees is part of a larger movement to include GMOs in organic production.
GMO labeling win — QR codes are unlawful
The Center for Food Safety had a critical victory in their latest suit to address shortcomings in the federal Bioengineered (BE) Food labeling law. A U.S. district court found using QR codes alone for BE disclosures unlawful and discriminatory. QR codes are inaccessible to Americans who don’t use smartphones or live in rural areas with unreliable internet.
The finding is a big win for everyone who supports clear, meaningful GMO labeling. It eliminates the most egregious and discriminatory form of disclosure, forcing the USDA to revise the portions of the labeling law to remove the option alone on product packaging.
However, there are still issues with the Bioengineered Food labeling law — find out more here.
While we’ve ended on a positive note for GMO labeling, there are causes for concern in organics and agricultural biotechnology. Biotechnology in the food space continues to overpromise and underdeliver, increasing the need for costly and destructive inputs such as pesticides and fertilizers while failing to address hunger in the most vulnerable populations.
The Non-GMO Project continues to work towards a natural, regenerative and equitable food system that honors traditional and Indigenous knowledge and empowers all people to care for themselves, the planet, and future generations.