BIO Response to National Organic Standards

(Dr. Val Giddings, vice president for food and agriculture for BIO, today issued the following statement regarding USDA’s proposed new national organic standards):

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 07, 2000)--Everyone will welcome clarification of what it means to be ‘organic.’ But it would be most unfortunate if in providing this long sought clarification USDA were to lend its support to those who seek to vilify foods derived from other, demonstrably safe and valuable production methods.

Both USDA and FDA policy clearly acknowledge that foods derived from biotechnology are as safe as any other type of food. In fact, foods derived from crops improved through biotechnology can offer nutritional benefits not found in other foods. Biotechnology allows us to produce foods that contain more proteins, vitamins and minerals and less fat.

Varieties of crops like canola that are now under development have more beta-carotene. Fruits and vegetables that may help prevent cancer and heart disease by delivering more of Vitamins C, E and others are also in development. And finally, biotech foods have the potential to eliminate allergies by making it possible to identify and remove known allergens from foods, resulting in allergen-free peanuts and rice.

It must be noted that a definition of organic that excludes foods derived from crops improved through biotechnology has no basis in science. At the same time it must be recognized that crops improved through biotechnology are vastly improving the sustainability of conventional agriculture and in some cases can give farmers the opportunity to use less pesticide.

We look forward to providing these and other facts to USDA during the comment period.

BIO represents more than 900 companies, academic institutions and biotech centers in 47 states and 26 nations. BIO members are involved in the research and development of health-care, agricultural, industrial and environmental products.