According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to an estimated $20 billion in 2007.
During roughly the same time period, biotech crops have been adopted at a phenomenal rate.
Biotech crops first became available in the U.S. in 1996. Twelve years later, more than 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. are biotech. Biotech canola, squash, sugar beets and papaya have also come on the market.
Why then do so many opposed to biotech cite biotech “contamination” of organic crops as being a risk to the organic industry? The organic industry has grown at a substantial rate right alongside agricultural biotech companies. Clearly the two can, and do, coexist.
In fact, nowhere do the paths of the two industries appear to collide. In the United States, organic certification is governed by the USDA National Organic Program (NOP). Contrary to many statements to the contrary, no organic farm has ever lost organic certification due to accidental contamination from biotech crops. Not once.
OTA’s predictions for the future of organic are equally rosy. According to OTA “the market for these goods is projected to reach nearly $23.6 billion in 2008, and grow an average of 18 percent each year from 2007-2010.”
One could argue that biotech is actually beneficial to the organic industry. The NOP does not allow biotech crops to be certified as organic. Those nervous about biotech food can easily avoid it by purchasing certified organic products. This sounds like a good thing for organic farmers and the organic industry.
Anti-biotech activists often cite the supposed risk “ biotech contamination” poses to organic agriculture. However, when offering alternatives to biotech, the very same activists point to the great success and growth of organic agriculture during the past decade – the same decade during which biotech crops have also shown tremendous growth.
Which is it? Is organic agriculture being threatened and in danger of extinction due to biotech, or is it having great success and growth?
While it may serve their political and PR interests of anti-biotech activists to portray the relationship as one rife with conflict, the organic industry’s own sales data would suggest otherwise. Try as they might, anti-biotech folks can’t have their cake and eat it too–even if the cake is organic.