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Watchdog Group: USDA Must End “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy on GMO Vaccines in Organic Livestock

OrganicEye, an agribusiness watchdog, has demanded that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) hold a public hearing on the use of mRNA and other genetically engineered vaccines in organic livestock production, or else the agency would face litigation.

OrganicEye warned that the continued use of genetically modified (GM) products violates the legal definition of “organic.”

The request comes after reports revealed that the USDA and some organic certifiers have done nothing while commercial livestock producers started using genetically engineered vaccines in animals producing organic-certified meat, eggs and dairy products.

USDA’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” protocol pushed by Big Ag

One significant difference between conventional and organic food is the organic label’s strict prohibition on GM farm inputs and ingredients, as detailed in the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990.

Wisconsin-based OrganicEye warned that instead of enforcing this rule, the USDA has sanctioned a “don’t ask, don’t tell” protocol that was pushed by Big Ag which allows producers to administer genetically engineered vaccines to animals and still market them as “organic.”

Mark Kastel, executive director of OrganicEye, said that the issue must be addressed immediately due to the imminent use of mRNA vaccines for livestock, which are currently being developed with massive funding from the government and industry.

OrganicEye said that it is unacceptable for the USDA to delay dealing with this highly controversial issue. The agribusiness watchdog said the USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) must conduct a meeting of all stakeholders – not only with industry interests who want these vaccines, but also with farmers. “These people have a right to be heard,” said Kastel.

By default, synthetic materials are banned in organics unless they have been explicitly permitted because they are considered “essential” to production and have been evaluated and determined to be safe for human health and the environment.

Congress created the NOSB in the 1990s to recommend industry standards for regulating these materials. The NOSB is a powerful advisory board, and the USDA cannot allow synthetic substances in organic production unless the board specifically approves and recommends them.

The NOSB was designed to represent stakeholders from all over the organics industry, including small farmers and consumers. However, the board has been misused and is now increasingly dominated by powerful agribusiness lobbyists, eventually becoming increasingly subordinate to agribusiness’ orders.

Vaccines are not essential for livestock

Kastel said the first question that must be investigated is whether vaccines are “essential” for livestock. After all, they are usually not required in livestock production, unless there are state regulations about the interstate transportation of livestock.

Despite this, many producers, especially those in industrial agriculture, continue to vaccinate their animals to “mitigate risks.”

According to Kastel, a USDA hearing would allow the public to investigate if there is any reasonable justification from anybody other than those involved in conventional livestock production for the use of vaccines. Kastel also suggested that animals don’t need vaccines, particularly those cared for “in a healthy environment with plenty of outdoor access and pasture for ruminants like beef and dairy cows on family-scale farms.”

Several vaccines previously approved for organic production have already been phased out and replaced with vaccines produced through genetic modification. At recent NOSB meetings, accredited organic certifiers revealed that they do not check if the vaccines used violate the prohibition against genetic engineering even though federal regulations mandate their review.

In response, the NOSB recommended that the USDA approve a regulatory amendment allowing for the use of these GM vaccines in organic production in cases where the traditionally produced vaccine was not available.

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In a policy brief, OrganicEye criticized the move as “likely illegal” because in all cases, vaccines produced using methods of genetic engineering/modification are “forbidden by the national organic standards and are currently excluded from use.”

The agency did not enact that recommendation and has stated that it won’t act in this regulatory area.

Kastel said this means the USDA is saying they have no plans for new rulemaking and are only going to let things stand, insisting on a “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to regulating GMO vaccines.

In the OrganicEye policy brief, the watchdog proposed that the USDA devise a clear categorization for vaccines, review all vaccines for safety prior to approval, especially for the persistence of “foreign” DNA, RNA and antibodies in meat and develop a way to address concerns that may arise from that review, including removing such vaccines from the market if necessary.




2 Responses

  1. The USDA is just another alphabet agency that has become corrupt. The only solution is to completely defund them forever and start over with something else.

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