Organic seed grower feels optimistic
Frank Morton, founding president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, (OSGTA,) a national non-profit, and co-owner of Wild Garden Seed in Philomath, believes that anti-GMO forces have many reasons to hope.
“Organic production is growing in value and validity every year,” Morton says. He cites a University of Washington study published in December that showed that organic milk had consistently more healthy fats than the conventional milk most Americans drink. “Commercial agriculture is moving toward values espoused by the local and organic movement consistently from our beginnings.”
Morton believes that Monsanto’s media blitz this spring about incentivizing employees to participate in a sustainability program, (“Business Ecosystems Training,) shows that the corporate giant has “seen the light, now that their biotech campaign has gutted public breeding programs through defunding in the Farm Bill.”
He adds, “Talk about bragging about their bandages!”
As a representative of OSGTA, Morton travels frequently to conventions and meetings. He has noticed that more farmers than ever see that organic producers have the best model for long-term sustainability and profitability. “I don’t hear stories about dedicated organic farmers ‘going conventional,’” Morton says, “but there are plenty of stories about traffic in the other direction.”
Though conventional growers can’t always make the switch because it is difficult to “undo a lifetime of bad habits” such as “spraying trouble away,” Morton says that when these farmers succeed, “there is no going back; our way is more pleasurable.”
He’s also noticed that mainstream producers seem more often to be “a pretty hang-dog group… strung out on operating loans,” while organic gatherings are “abuzz with enthusiasm, unmet opportunities, no operating debt, markets for every scale and location, young people dreaming and working hard, undeterred by the negativity fire-hosed against us for decades.”
Corporate chemical and gene giants Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Bayer, and BASF are all, Morton says, “gunning to be the last Titan standing… and there are those who believe that the fatal blows could come soon.”
“What will happen when Monsanto’s stock price tanks?” he asks. What will happen when, as Morton describes it, “investors see there are no more magic bullets in the gene gun, that classical breeding (not single gene insertions) is the route to the future of food?”
“We will see.”
Morton has participated in three court cases – one against the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) when Monsanto petitioned to join USDA to deregulate Roundup Ready (GMO) sugar beets, one against Monsanto as part of an OSGATA case and one against Oregon Department of Agriculture to stop their rush to introduce canola into the Willamette Valley.