Over decades, organic certification organizations developed standards of animal well-being and sustainable land practices based on farmers’ expertise. The leadership from the early organic farmers informed the development of National Organic Program (NOP) regulations, with clearly defined rules for livestock health-care practices (§205.238) and living conditions for animals (§205.239). Every certified organic dairy farm has an Organic Systems Plan, in which animal welfare regulations are addressed.
Certified organic animal welfare standards address a wide range of topics, including feed rations, appropriate housing, pasture conditions, sanitation practices for animals, conditions which allow for freedom of movement and reduction of stress, prevention of disease, and administration of approved medications under organic standards.
Understanding Organic Certification
A certified organic dairy farm must strictly follow specific standards from USDA’s National Organic Program, including the following:
- All animal feed must be grown without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, or GMOs.
- Cows must have regular access to pasture.
- Vaccinations are allowed as long as they are not derived from genetically modified organisms.
- No antibiotics or reproductive hormones, including Bovine Growth Hormone, rBGH, can ever be used.
- Organic certification comes from independent third-party organizations licensed by the USDA.
- NOP’s animal welfare practices are overseen by organic certification organizations such as California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) or Marin Organic Certified Agriculture (MOCA).
- The USDA’s National Organic Program covers both the dairy farms and Creamery.
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are altered at the molecular level, in a laboratory, in ways that do not naturally occur. Using genetic engineering or transgenic technology, the DNA of plants and animals is combined with the DNA of other species and artificially modified to exhibit traits such as resistance to cold or herbicides. The safety of genetically engineered foods has never appropriately been assured. It is estimated that 75% of processed foods on supermarket shelves in the U.S. contain at least some genetically engineered ingredients. American consumers have no way of knowing if and when they are eating GE foods, unlike consumers in the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, and China, where GMO labeling is required.
Today, new technologies are being used to artificially develop other traits in plants, such as resistance to browning in apples, and creating new organisms using synthetic biology. Despite biotech industry promises, there is no evidence that any of the GMOs currently on the market offer increased yield, drought tolerance, or enhanced nutrition.
(Sources: NON-GMO Project and Center for Food Safety )