Can GM creep into organics?

If GM can blow onto an organic farm and it’s not decertified, could GM creep into organic food?

Australia’s organic regulators are trying to set the record straight and amend the organic standards – the rulebook farmers have to abide by. Unlike organic standards in Europe and the United States, Australian standards ban GM in organic products – even if it’s accidental.

The amendment says farmers don’t automatically lose certification if GM, genetically modified material, is found growing on their farm but if the end product contains GM, it loses organic certification.

This is assuming that end products are tested for GM. Individual tests cost hundreds of dollars so growers are unlikely to be testing unless they have to.

GM grows quietly

An organic canola farmer could farm next door to a paddock of GM and not know. Come harvest time the canola could be contaminated with GM. If the organic farmer has no reason to believe their crop faced higher risks of contamination, it’s unlikely they would pay hundreds of dollars to test it.

Most farmers let their neighbours know if they’re growing genetically modified crops so this scenario is unlikely but it’s still plausible.

Buying certified organic is your best way of avoiding GM, but it’s no guarantee.

Steve Marsh case – did you know

In Western Australia Steve Marsh lost organic certification because GM seed from his neighbour’s canola crop blew onto his property and started growing plants.

The thing is Steve grew wheat, his neighbour grew canola. So the GM canola would never have contaminated his organic wheat crop.

Some argue the steps the organic certification body took were too extreme and interpreted the organic standards wrongly but how lenient can the organic industry afford to be?

What if Steve wanted to grow canola? A line has to be drawn that reduces risk. It’s an extremely complex issue and the organic industry is trying to contain a genie that escaped from the bottle a long time ago.

It’s quite unrealistic to think that organic crops in Australia can be 100% GM free and organic regulators are doing their best to say no to GM without imposing impossible requirements on farmers.

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