Organic Standards Sabotaged Successfully By “Our” Congress
Sad to say, the ominous forces not really caring about organic foods and products being organic have sabotaged America’s attempt to keep pesticides, additives, genetically altered feed, crops, etc., out of foods previously and futuristically labelled ‘organic.’ The deed has been done — ?for now? — thanks to our wonderful Congressfolk supposedly representing us.
This just occurred this week. Did you hear about it
on your television or radio?? The implications are dire
for the integrity of “organic” foods, unless this is overturned ASAP. Which the Organic Consumers Association already does intend to do. Meanwhile, another victory for big business, which has bought up too much of the organic trade, not caring about food safety, but loving that 15-20% increase in annual profits:
Congress Rams Through OTA Sneak Attack on Organic Standards Despite Massive Consumer Opposition
For immediate release
October 27, 2005
Ronnie Cummins, 218-226-4164, Organic Consumers Association
Congress Votes to Weaken Organic Standards Despite Widespread Consumer
Changes Were Sought by Large-Scale Food Processors to Cut Costs of Meeting Current Law.
WASHINGTON < Congress voted yesterday to weaken the nation's organic food standards in response to pressure from large-scale food manufacturers.
The Organic Trade Association (OTA) and food processors have been pressing Congress to change the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) to allow for the use of numerous synthetic substances in products labeled “organic” and to weaken organic dairy standards.
A recent court decision ruled that the OFPA does not allow synthetic (non-natural) ingredients to be used in foods labeled “organic” and that the act must ensure a strong standard under which dairy cows are converted to organic milk production. After rejecting efforts by members of the public interest and environmental community to reach an agreement on these issues, major food processors in the organic food industry, including Smucker’s, Dean Foods, and Kraft, pushed Congress to “quietly” change the law to allow the use of such synthetic ingredients and potentially weaken the organic dairy standards.
“Congress voted last night to weaken the national organic standards that consumers count on to preserve the integrity of the organic label,” said Ronnie Cummins, National Director of the Organic Consumers Association.. “The process was profoundly undemocratic and the end result is a serious setback for the multi billion dollar alternative food and farming system that the organic community has so painstakingly built up over the past 35 years. The rider will take away the traditional role of the organic community and the National Organic Standards Board in monitoring and controling organic standards. Industry’s stealth attack has unnecessarily damaged the standards that helped organic foods become the fastest growing sector in the food industry.”
As passed, the amendment sponsored by the Organic Trade Association allows:
? Numerous synthetic food additives and processing aids, including over 500 food contact substances, to be used in organic foods without public review.
? Young dairy cows to continue to be treated with antibiotics and fed genetically engineered feed prior to being converted to organic production.
? Loopholes under which non-organic ingredients could be substituted for organic ingredients without any notification of the public based on “emergency decrees.”
The amendment was vigorously opposed by consumer, retail and growers groups, as well as public health and environmental groups, including National Cooperative Grocers Association, National Organic Coalition and Rural Advancement Foundation International ? USA, Beyond Pesticides, National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture, Organic Consumers Association, and Consumers Union. Consumers sent more than 300,000 letters to Congress imploring members to stand up against industry’s efforts to weaken the organic standards.
In October 2002, just days after the rules governing organic under NOP were implemented, Maine blueberry farmer Arthur Harvey filed suit against USDA claiming that the USDA regulations governing foods labeled “organic” contravened several principles of the OFPA. Having initially lost on all counts, Harvey prevailed in January 2005 when the Court of Appeals ruled in his favor on the three counts finding:
1. Synthetic substances are not permitted in processing of items labeled as “organic,” and only allowed in the “made with organic” labeling category.
2. Provisions allowing up to 20-percent non-organic feed in the first nine months of a dairy herd’s one-year conversion to organic production are not permitted.
3. All exemptions for the use of non-organic products “not commercially available in organic form” must be reviewed by National Organic Standards Board, and certifiers must review the operator’s attempt to source organic.
See more of the story, posted below, and click on the star,
Also, you can still call your senators by dialing for free this number, telling them about what you think re this rider and its effects:
877-762-8762. If you do not know your senators by name, tell the operator that answers what state you are from, and they will connect you to one senator. Tell them you live in their state. And you vote.
You can say whatever you wish.
Then you can redial and get the second senator, and do the same.
It is your country! You can do something, like expressing your disgust that this could have happened. Save your kids, your family, your groundwater.
After 35 years of hard work, the U.S. organic community has built up a multi-billion dollar alternative to industrial agriculture, based upon strict organic standards and organic community control over modification to these standards.
Now, large corporations such as Kraft, Wal-Mart, & Dean Foods–aided and abetted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and members of the Organic Trade Association are moving to lower organic standards by allowing Bush appointees in the USDA National Organic Program to create a broad list of synthetic ingredients that would be allowed in organic production. Even worse these proposed regulatory changes will reduce future public discussion and input and take away the National Organic Standards Boardís (NOSB) traditional lead jurisdiction in setting standards. What this means, in blunt terms. is that USDA bureaucrats and industry lobbyists, not consumers, will now have more control over what can go into organic foods and products. (Send a quick letter to your Senator online here)
During the week of Sept. 20 through Sept. 23, acting in haste and near-total secrecy, the U.S. Senate plans to vote on a rider to the 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill that will take away control over organic standards from the National Standards Board and put this control in the hands of federal bureaucrats in the USDA (remember the USDA proposal in 1997-98 that said that genetic engineering, toxic sludge, and food irradiation would be OK on organic farms, or USDA suggestions in 2004 that heretofore banned pesticides, hormones, tainted feeds, and animal drugs would be OK?).
For the past week in Washington, OCA has been urging members of the Senate not to reopen and subvert the federal statute that governs U.S. Organic standards (the Organic Food Production ActóOFPA), but rather to let the organic community and the National Organic Standards Board resolve our differences over issues like synthetics and animal feed internally, and then proceed to a open public comment period. Unfortunately most Senators seem to be listening to industry lobbyists more closely than to us. We need to raise our voices. (Send a quick letter to your Senator online here)
In the past, grassroots mobilization and mass pressure by organic consumers have been able to stop the USDA and Congress from degrading organic standards. This time Washington insiders tell us that the ìfix is already in.î So we must take decisive action now. We need you to call your U.S. Senators today. We need you to sign the following petition and send it to everyone you know. We also desperately need funds to head off this attack in the weeks and months to come. Thank you for your support. Together we will take back citizen control over organic standards and preserve organic integrity.
Call the Capital Switchboard here: 877-762-8762, and tell your US Senator to not support any ammendments to the ag appropriations bill that would lower organic standards – or send a quick letter to your Congressperson online here: www.organicconsumers.org/rd-ofpa.htm
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Organic Standards Under Fire:
Agribusiness front groups, such as the Farm Bureau, big food corporations like Kraft, biotech companies such as Monsanto, right-wing think tanks, such as the Hudson Institute, and industry-friendly government agencies have consistently tried to undermine organic standards and get the USDA to allow conventional chemical-intensive and factory farm practices on organic farms. Unless strict organic standards are maintained, consumers will lose faith in the organic label.
Federal Funding for Organics:
The current five year $220 billion US Farm Bill allocates less than $5 million annually for organic research, promotion and marketingóapproximately one-tenth of one percent. This means that Congress is using billions of our tax dollars to reward chemical-intensive, factory farm style operations, while penalizing non-chemical farmers. This, despite the fact that organic food has been the fasting growing segment in the food marketplace for over 13 years. To move beyond using pesticides, chemicals and genetically modified seeds, conventional farmers need government subsidies and conversion programs that prioritize local and regional organic production. These misguided priorities must be reversed in the upcoming 2007 Farm Bill.
Preserving Organic Farms
and Consumer Choice:
Genetically Engineered (GE) crops pose a serious pollution threat to organic food and farms. Windblown pollen from GE crops and commingling of seeds in grain elevators or transport vehicles are contaminating organic farms and seed stocks of corn, soy, cotton and canola. The OCA is calling for strict legal liability on all GE crops utilizing the ìpolluter paysî principle, to protect the property rights of farmers growing organic or non-GE crops. The OCA is also calling for mandatory labeling on GE foodsósimilar to laws already in place in Europe and other countriesóso that consumers have a choice whether or not to buy GE foods.
The Organic Consumer Association’s Stance on the Arthur Harvey Lawsuit and 2007 Farm Bill
Arthur Harvey versus USDA Lawsuit
OCA and the other the plaintiffs in the Harvey lawsuit basically agree that:
Synthetics may be allowed in the ìMade Withî Organic ingredients category if there is no non-synthetic ingredient currently available, and if the synthetic ingredient is rigorously reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). Of course none of these synthetics can be derived from ìexcluded methodsî such as genetic engineering or irradiation, as National Organic Program (NOP) regulations stipulate.
OCA is willing to consider the limited allowance of some synthetic substances for use in or on the non-organic portions of products labeled as ìOrganicî (those in the 95-100% Organic category). This will require a new rulemaking process by the USDA that improves and appropriately supports a thorough, carefully managed National Organic Standards Board process used to review and approve all synthetic substances proposed for use in organic food processing.
The synthetics originally approved by the NOSB were all supposed to be ìsunsettedî after five years, and then re-reviewed. This never happened. OCA strongly believes that it is not a good idea to reopen the entire Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) for Congressional revisions at this time, but rather to use the USDA rulemaking process, whereby the organic community and the NOSB will propose rule changes to the USDA that are published in the Federal Register and then subjected to a full comment period of 90-180 days.
Additionally the OCA is committed to working with all interests to find clear, consensus language that will allow dairy farmers to continue conversion to organic production without suffering undue financial burdens, and which acknowledges the simultaneous conversion of land and dairy animals. Again, through the USDA rulemaking process, rather than Congressional action, OCA would support compromise measures that would allow dairy farmers to use 20% of non-organic feed for the first nine months of conversion for organic cows, as long as this less-expensive feed was coming from farms in a certified transition to organic program.
The OCA also strongly supports moving taxpayer subsidies away from non-green, pork-barrel, trade-distorting commodity and export programs to instead support farmers and ranchers making the transition to organic. If dairy farmers could get a temporary subsidy to cover part or most of the additional costs of purchasing organic feed during the transition period for their cows, strong organic standards could be maintained without undue economic hardship for these farmers.
Currently there is a 15% greater demand for organic milk than there is supply across the U.S. And while organic beef and meat supplies grew by 122% last year, there is a massive shortage of supply, especially for supermarkets who want to sell organic meat products. Meanwhile family farm dairies and beef, poultry, and pork producers are going out of business every day because they canít afford the costs of converting over to organic. If we can help dairy, beef, pork, and poultry farmers in the U.S. make the conversion to organic, as well as help currently certified organic farmers increase their herd or flock sizes a bit, then these farmers wonít need subsidies on an ongoing basis.
On the 2007 Farm Bill:
OCA believes that conservation programs, food stamp allocations, WIC program allocations, and other community nutrition programs (which constitute over 1/2 of the Farm Bill) must not be cut, but rather increased, with funds coming from trade-distorting ìpork barrelî subsidy programs such as cotton subsidies, which have recently been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization.
The most important segment of Americaís farmers (64%) in terms of nutrition and land stewardship (organic and transition to organic farmers and fruit and vegetable growers) get no subsidies at all, or very little, while huge chemical-intensive corporate farms (10% of Americaís farms) get the lionís share (80%) of the nationís $20 billion in crop subsidies every year. Giant exporters, who also receive enormous additional subsidies, then ìdumpî these subsidized crops on the Global South at below the cost of production, exacerbating poverty and driving millions of small and indigenous farmers off the land.
We need to simultaneously comply with WTO regulations, help U.S. family farmers, and at the same time help alleviate poverty in the Global South, by starting to phase-out all ìnon-greenî U.S. farm subsidies in favor of subsidies that help farmers farm more sustainably; make the transition to organic; develop local value-added markets for their products; and adopt renewable and sustainable energy practices on the farm. The worsening energy crisis underlines the need to move as soon as possible to reduce petroleum and energy inputs, and to increase renewable and energy conservation measures on the U.S.ís 1.8 million farms.
OCA will continue to work with other public interest organizations, conservation and environmental groups, and ant-hunger, nutrition, and human rights organizations to eliminate trade-distorting, pork barrel provisions in the Farm Bill and annual USDA appropriations and instead to workl for a Sustainable & Fair Deal Farm Bill which benefits U.S. family farmers, consumers, low-income families and children, and farmers and rural villagers around the world.