NCGA Responds to GE Alfalfa Deregulation

IOWA CITY, IOWA (Jan. 28, 2011)– National Cooperative Grocers Association (NCGA) expressed disappointment with the USDA’s decision for complete deregulation of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa.

“We appreciate that the USDA considered various options for the future of GE alfalfa, and had hoped that the voices of the hundreds of thousands of consumers who commented on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement [EIS] would result in a different outcome,” said Robynn Shrader, chief executive officer for NCGA. “Like many, we areextremely disappointed with yesterday's announcement and will continue to champion for better protections for organic farmers and consumers, by all means afforded to us."

"Many organizations are encouraging consumers to contact the White House and their state's legislators with their feedback on USDA's decision and we encourage all consumers to continue to make their voices heard. However, we have also heard some calls for boycotting of organics in protest to USDA's decision and we'd like to express our passionate objection to this idea."

“Although this outcome was not what we had hoped for, the organic community was included in this process at unprecedented levels and as a result of our combined input, the USDA has committed to studying methods to prevent cross pollination and securing and preserving non-GE alfalfa seeds,” Shrader continued.

"The message we would like to send to organic consumers today is that it is more important than ever to support the farmers and processors who bring us organics. It is only through continued growth and increased market power that we can have a greater impact in Washington. Yesterday's decision means that the work of organic farmers and others in the industry will be more challenging than ever. We want them to know that NCGA will continue to work on their behalf and we call on consumers to join us in showing support. Now is the time for us to demonstrate our shared commitment to organic. Now is the time to support organic farmers."

(On February 7, an additional statement was posted by NCGA's Robynn Shrader to www.grist.org -- below is most of that Grist report.)

Members of the sustainable food movement are furious and, frankly, we have a right to be. Last month's decision by the USDA to fully deregulate GE alfalfa isn't just a minor skirmish in a long and exhausting battle. It threatens the existence of organic farming and organic food, and flies in the face of USDA's mandate from Congress under the Organic Foods Production Act to promote and preserve organic agriculture….

Tensions following USDA's action have run high as members of the organic industry reacted to the news. Now, sustainable agriculture advocates including National Cooperative Grocers Association, Organic Valley, Stonyfield, and organic champion Maria Rodale are calling for organizations to "stand together in opposition to GE alfalfa." As we regroup and redouble our efforts to protect organic agriculture, these unifying messages are more important than ever. The USDA's decision last week was a tremendous setback, but the fight is far from over.

In order to preserve organics, the sustainable food movement must unite. Here's what each of us should do today to take action on this issue:
1. Let the White House know that organic food has a right to exist and thrive, and that you do not support the deregulation of GE alfalfa or any crop, by signing this petition.
2. Support organizations like the Center for Food Safety (CFS) as they raise funds for legal action against the USDA's deregulation of GE alfalfa. CFS and others have legal grounds to contest the USDA's Environmental Impact Statement assessment as being incomplete. While Monsanto has billions in lobbying funds, the sustainable food movement has legal precedent on its side. Let's support groups who aim to take the USDA to court. You can also sign up to receive CFS action alerts here.
3. Continue to support the farms and processors that bring us organics. Although growing, organic is still a small part of the agricultural industry. By increasing our market power, we can have a greater impact in Washington and throughout the nation. Let's vote with our dollars.
4. Continue to demand that the USDA and Congress protect farmers and consumers from the risks of GE crops, products, and ingredients. Farmers have the right to use organic farming methods and should be protected from losses due to GE contamination. GE-free seed programs must be developed. Long-term research on the implications of GE crops must be conducted. Consumers have a right to know what's in their food, and to make informed decisions about what they choose to eat. These fundamental principles are part of a seven-point plan National Organic Coalition created to provide clarity and focus for the organic movement on this issue.

By uniting around common goals, the sustainable food movement has established an organic standard with high integrity; one that includes certification, accreditation, and consumer labeling. We must continue fighting for organic protections. We must demand that our government recognize organic's right to exist and thrive.

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