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Should GMOs Be Allowed in Organic Food? USDA Sparks Debate

Dive Brief:

• USDA Undersecretary of Agriculture Greg Ibach testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee this month that plants grown with the aid of genetically modified organisms and gene editing could be allowed to be certified organic in the future.

• "I think there is the opportunity to open the discussion to consider whether it is appropriate for some of these new technologies that include gene-editing to be eligible to be used to enhance organic production and to have drought and disease-resistant varieties, as well as higher-yield varieties available," he said.

• Currently, organic standards prohibit genetic engineering and GMOs to be certified under that label. In June, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that instructed federal agencies to be more lenient on the approvals for genetic crop modifications and other forms of agricultural biotech.

Dive Insight:

The current organic certification requires that products with the organic label lack antibiotics, artificial colors, genetically modified ingredients and synthetic pesticides. GMOs made the list because they are not naturally occurring, a value which is at the root of the organic movement. However, Ibach's comments show that policymakers are considering GMO as a possible addition to the list of acceptable practices for organic farming.