Gary Hirshberg to organic industry: Stop fighting, start uniting

Gary Hirshberg to organic industry: Stop fighting, start uniting

Is it time that the organic industry stopped squabbling over labels and started uniting for whole-scale agricultural change? Stonyfield's Gary Hirshberg says yes.

There's a worrisome fragmentation within the organic industry, though consumers and those outside of industry may be completely unaware. It's the idea many natural industry leaders have spoken of in recent years: The fear that USDA's Certified Organic label is being cannabalized by Non-GMO Project Verification.

Like all revolutionary movements and ideas, both sides have the best intentions and are working toward the same goal. So is there really anything to fight about? Yes, because dollars and momentum are at stake, driven by consumers' perception of these two labels. The current sentiment: Non-GMO Project Verification equals trust; USDA Organic equals skepticism.

"I think it is important to remind ourselves that organic certification can be trusted, because third-party, NOP-accredited inspectors audit the Organic System Plan for every certified operation. They do not require a sample test to prove non-GMO because they should be able to determine that based on your growing/processing system that should be determined," said Jody Mason, conference manager of The Organic Summit. "But the Non-GMO Project Verified logo offers a second-tier quality assurance for consumers who want to avoid GMOs, or for products that are not certified organic."

But some natural products, such as yogurt or other dairy products, may have a difficult time getting Non-GMO Project Verification because of their diverse and complicated supply chains. Should a certified organic dairy company, such as Stonyfield Farm, be looked at as less credible if it doesn't have the Non-GMO Project label?

After all, USDA says organic means non-GMO.

In a video interview with newhope360, we asked Stonyfield Chairman Gary Hirshberg what he thought about the industry division. Hirshberg was in Boulder, Colo., to deliver the Naturally Boulder keynote. His response: Stop focusing on what we're not doing, and start spreading the united message about organic's benefits.

Do you think that the organic industry should be better united? Leave a comment.

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