- Changes Were Sought by Large-Scale Food Processors to
Cut Costs of Meeting Current Law. Congress voted yesterday to weaken the
nation's organic food standards in response to pressure from large-scale
- 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 controlling 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
- 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.