GMO Giant BASF Unveiled as Member of Organic Trade Association
By Heather Callaghan, Editor
Yesterday a report by Living Maxwell revealed that the often overlooked GMO/chemical giant, BASF, is actually a member of the U.S. Organic Trade Association. This realization sent waves of ire throughout the worldwide community of organic advocates.
As a result of this revelation, major organic food producer, Nature’s Path, has left the organization as a form of protest.
From the Living Maxwell report:
Upset Over Policy Differences and that Major GMO/Chemical Companies are Members of the Organic Trade Association, Nature’s Path Quits the Organization as a Protest to Save Organic
For some people, having BASF — one of the world’s most powerful chemical and GMO companies — as a member of the Organic Trade Association (OTA) is not a problem.
For Arran Stephens, CEO and Co-Founder of the fiercely independent, family-owned Nature’s Path, this was something that he could no longer tolerate.
A combination of frustration with the OTA over the years, the organization’s willingness to accept hydroponics in organic, and allowing non-organic members, such as BASF, Cargill, Campbell’s and General Mills, to have influence over the direction of the OTA were all reasons Nature’s Path cited as reasons why it recently left the trade group.
“Our departure from the OTA is an act of protest to raise awareness of our concern that the important role organic plays to support the health of consumers and our planet is being compromised,” says Arran Stephens.
A TURBULENT HISTORY WITH THE OTA
The decision to leave the Organic Trade Association was hardly an impetuous one, and Nature’s Path has been intimately involved with the organization for nearly two decades, often at odds with its policies and willingness to protect organic.
According to Nature’s Path, Arran Stephens had been on the OTA’s board of directors from 1996 to 2002 but quit primarily because the organization was not taking the threat of GMOs seriously enough. He expressed his concerns to the OTA board more than once, warning that “GMOs will become the greatest threat to the organic movement in the years ahead.”
“When I resigned from the board, I was becoming somewhat battle-fatigued and felt that I, and other rank and file OTA board members were being ignored by the executive committee. At the 2001 OTA meeting at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim, one of the executive committee members, who was also the CEO of Cascadian Farms, stated that the OTA wouldn’t take a stand for or against GMOs. I whispered to my friend and industry activist, Ken McCormick, ‘I betcha anything, Cascadian is selling out.’ Sure enough, later that very morning, it was announced that Cascadian Farms had been acquired by General Mills,” said Arran Stephens.
Despite Stephens’ departure from the Board of Directors, Nature’s Path continued as a member of OTA until now.
BASF, a German conglomerate with operations around the world, is a major player in GMO seeds and super-toxic chemicals as well.
One of its primary chemicals is a next-generation herbicide called dicamba. It is sprayed on genetically-engineered crops that are resistant to dicamba, but the volatile nature of this chemical has made it very prone to drift, which has resulted in millions of acres of damaged crops.
Despite the fact that dicamba has been linked to increased rates of cancer in farmers and birth defects. it is expected that tens of millions of acres will be sprayed with dicamba over the next few years. This will have catastrophic consequences for pollinators, insects that are vital to our food supply.
BASF WANTS TO USE ITS GENETICALLY-MODIFIED PRODUCT IN ORGANIC
Even though dicamba is not allowed to be sprayed on organic crops, BASF’s biopolymers division, a member of the Organic Trade Association, is attempting to get special approval for its biodegradable mulch from the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).
At the NOSB meeting in April in Tucson, Ruth Watts, a business development manager for BASF’s biopolymers division, acknowledged that “genetically modified organisms are used as a processing aid” in its bio-based mulch for which it is seeking approval. She claimed that the GMOs “do not survive the production process and are not in the final product, so they are not a farm input.” GMOs are illegal in organic production.
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David Mortensen, PhD, Professor of Weed and Applied Plant Ecology at Penn State University, and a current NOSB board member, listened to Ruth Watts’ public testimony in Tucson and said to her, “I was driving back from Washington, D.C. last week when one of your colleagues called in. I was coming back from the dicamba drift discussion, a closed-door discussion, where I heard multiple organic farmers say that they’re on the verge of not being able to grow their crops because of dicamba drift, which is manufactured by BASF. I guess I’m trying to reconcile a corporate ethic that wants to sell a product for organic production on the one hand and is selling a product that’s being used on about 50 million acres of cropland on the other hand. Could you just help me see the corporate ethic where there’s consistency here?”
“I don’t even know what this product is that you’ve been talking about,” answered Ruth Watts, claiming that she had no idea what her company’s prominent chemical was.
“Just to be clear, dicamba is the herbicide. It will be used because Monsanto and BASF are working together to have 50 million acres treated this coming summer. It would be worth discussing,” said David Mortensen.
When asked to comment about BASF’s membership in the OTA, CEO/Executive Director Laura Batcha said, “BASF is a non-voting, business associate member because they don’t sell any organic products. They are looking to enter the organic market with a bio-based product that would meet NOSB standards. It is a product that would replace a lot of the plastic being used in organic.”
Read more of the report and find out about Cargill’s role in the OTA!!
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