Albert Straus Comments at NOSB Meeting in Portland
On April 9-11, 2013, the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) had their bi-annual meeting in Portland, OR. Albert Straus attended the meeting to share his thoughts on GMO testing and verification and the certified organic label.
Here is a full transcript of his comment:
Thank you for the opportunity to speak today. My name is Albert Straus, I am an organic farmer from Northern California and I am also the founder of Straus Family Creamery. We produce certified organic dairy products including milk, yogurt, butter, ice cream and sour cream that we distribute in the Western United States.
My dairy farm in Marshall was the first certified organic dairy farm west of the Mississippi River and my creamery was the first 100% certified organic creamery in the United States.
In 2006 I found that my certified organic corn was contaminated with GMOs by up to 6%. In the following two years I implemented a GMO testing program at our dairies and the creamery to keep GMOs out of our processes and products. In 2010 the creamery and our dairy farms became the first to achieve Non-GMO Project Verification.
I am here to talk about the threat of GMO contamination to organic crops and the importance of Non-GMO verification in the organic industry. GMO contamination is occurring in organic crops. A study from the Organic Trade Association in 2011 found that more than 30% of certified organic corn was contaminated and 11% of that exceeded the EU threshold of 0.9%.
This puts organic dairy farms like mine at risk. It is increasingly difficult to source certified organic feed for my cows and the prices are continuously rising. The deregulation of genetically modified alfalfa has added to this problem. The supply of organic feed will only decrease as GMO contamination increases.
Our consumers expect our products to be non-GMO. We want to make sure that what we eat is free of GMOs. I believe that non-GMO verification is essential.
Organic practices don’t allow for the use of GMOs and the organic seal should reflect that. I believe that organic certification is the gold standard and it should include non-GMO verification.
I therefore suggest that:
- We have a meaningful threshold for GMO contamination that is defined and implemented in the National Organic Program, and
- That the National Organic Program requires a testing and verification standard for GMOs.
On a different subject, I also want to urge the NOP to make the certification procedures easier for farmers. The burden of all the paperwork is tremendous and very time consuming. If there is a way in which we can make the process simpler and more efficient I, as a farmer, would very much appreciate it.