Fedco Does Not Knowingly Carry Genetically Engineered Seeds
At our 1996 Annual Meeting we voted unanimously not to knowingly offer for sale any genetically engineered variety because the new gene technologies pose unacceptable risks to the environment. In 1999 we affirmed and clarified that position and will follow the guidelines of the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) which prohibit the use of genetically engineered organisms in organic crop production. OMRI uses the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) definition of genetic engineering.
Please note the word “knowingly.” Because of the possibility of contamination, over which we have no control, our pledge necessarily stops short of being an absolute guarantee. Although we will not sell any variety represented to us as genetically engineered, we will not be held legally responsible if any of our seed tests positive for genetically modified organisms. We have been advised not to sign any blanket statements such as “GMO free” that require us to state with certainty that our products are pure. Please do not submit such statements with your order. We apologize for having to split legal hairs, but we all share the reality of genetic drift.Along with more than 150 other seed companies, we have signed:
THE SAFE SEED PLEDGE
Agriculture and seeds provide the basis on which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms, poses great biological risks as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing are necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately people and communities.
DARK Times for GMO Labeling
Vermont’s first-in-the-nation mandatory genetic engineering labeling law was implemented July 1, 2016, and preempted less than a month later by federal legislation signed by President Obama. The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard, considered a “compromise” by supporters and a “sham and a shame” by opponents, was hustled through Congress without committee hearings, passing 63-30 in the Senate and 306-117 in the House.
Although the legislation creates a national standard and requirement for labeling GE foods, it is a win for large food companies and biotech firms. Dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act by opponents, it potentially exempts wide categories of GE foods, has no penalties against companies that fail to comply, and gives the USDA, no friend of labeling, discretion over the next two years to decide which products must be labeled. Most telling, by permitting non-transparent forms of labeling, it leaves the onus on consumers to learn which foods are GE. Companies can choose on their packaging to use a USDA symbol, a label printed in plain language, a QR code requiring a smart phone (which many seniors and rural low-income people don’t have) and broadband access to translate, or a 1-800 number or URL consumers must access for more information. The Center for Food Safety, working with a coalition of national groups, is preparing to file suit against the legislation later this month.
The law split the organic community with prominent board members of the Organic Trade Association supporting it, the farmer-controlled Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (of which Fedco is a voting member) unanimously opposed. OSGATA withdrew from OTA and terminated OTA’s OSGATA membership for misrepresenting organic interests to elected officials. Center for Food Safety Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell charged that OTA’s “big organic” industry interests sold out for some organic “pork,” an exemption added at the eleventh hour that allows all organic foods to be labeled “non-GMO” without any testing. MOFGA lobbied extensively against the Act and all four of Maine’s congressional delegation voted “nay.”
Need further background on GE issues? We strongly recommend Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer our Food has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public by Steven M. Druker and GMO Myths and Truths Condensed and Updated by Robinson, Antoniou and Fagan.
We Test Sweet Corn Seed and Beet Seed for Transgenic Contamination
To help ensure the purity of our seed, we have for the past dozen years employed industry leader Genetic ID to test random samples of our sweet corn lots for the presence of transgenic contamination. Because of the risks posed by production of genetically engineered Roundup Ready beets, we added beet and chard varieties to our GE testing program.
We remove any lots that test positive for transgenic contamination.
A negative test result, while not guaranteeing genetic purity, improves your chances that the seed is uncontaminated. These tests are expensive, but in a time of genetic roulette, they are necessary though not sufficient to assure seed purity. Only if the seed trade takes an adamant position that we will not tolerate GE contamination in our product can we maintain any integrity in our seed supply.