Organic Standards in Danger—Unless You Make Your Voice Heard

March 5, 2013
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organicIt’s like they’re saying, “Ssh! If we keep quiet enough, nobody will complain!” Let’s not let them get away with it. Action Alert!

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will hold its spring board meeting in April. As you probably know, NOSB is the governing board created by Congress that reviews all synthetic and non-organic materials proposed by Big Farma before they can be used in organic farming or food production.

For thirty days before each meeting, the public is supposed to be invited to scrutinize and comment on the topics that will come up at the NOSB meetings—a wide range of issues that significantly affect organic standards—and the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) is supposed to announce it. This time, however, the NOP failed to send out any public announcement about the thirty-day comment period, not even in their own e-newsletter, before the comment period began. The Cornucopia Institute discovered information about the April meeting, buried deep in the NOP website, after the comment period had already begun. Two days after the Cornucopia article appeared, NOP made the public announcement through their Organic Insider newsletter, costing stakeholders valuable time. Had this information been buried by mistake or on purpose? We don’t know.

Thank goodness Cornucopia discovered it, because public comment is vital to keep the NOSB accountable in the face of an increasingly cozy relationship between NOSB and Big Farma, and a serious dilution of organic standards. For example, the list of synthetic ingredients that are allowed in Certified Organic products is growing. As we reported previously, in 2002, the NOSB allowed only 72 chemicals. Since then, over 250 more chemicals have been added.

The majority of organic brands are owned by the biggest food manufacturers, and some them have seats on the NOSB. In 2011, a General Mills executive was on the board, and this year an exec from Driscoll’s, which markets both conventional and organic berries, held a seat on the board that was supposed to be filled by a farmer. After public outcry she resigned—but rejoined the NOSB in a different capacity.

Issues discussed in the NOSB meeting ahead could seriously undermine organic standards—unless you and other grassroots activists are willing to voice your strong objections:

  • How to control GMO contamination of organic seeds? Seed purity is especially important to prevent “creeping contamination.” Not only should there be stricter protocols to ensure pure organic seeds, there should be systematic testing of organic seeds for GMO contamination as part of the certification process. And biotechnology companies should be held accountable for any GMO contamination of organic seeds—even if it was unintentional. Under current organic rules, there are no strict practices ensuring that organic seeds are not contaminated with GMO. GMOs are considered an excluded “method” that should be prevented by best practices, but the actual organic product itself is not tested for GMOs. Testing usually occurs when there is “reason to believe” that organic food is contaminated with GMOs.
  • How to deal with GMOs in vaccines? Under current organic regulations, animal vaccines using GMOs are not allowed, unless specifically approved by the NOP. However, the NOP hasn’t identified which vaccines contain GMOs in the first place, resulting in GMO vaccine use and weak enforcement. The NOSB will discuss how to identify GMO vaccines; we believe it should it be defined as any technology that creates a targeted change or mutation in the genome; it certainly shouldn’t be something that is evaluated on a case-by case basis, another option that is being considered. We strongly oppose any GMO vaccines in organic livestock.
  • Should “confidential business information” (CBI) be allowed in a petitioner’s request for a synthetic chemical to be added to the organic “allowed” list? Currently, CBI is not disclosed in the technical evaluation report of a chemical, and it’s not available to the NOSB, much less to the public. But such CBI could include important information regarding environmental and health effects of a chemical. We strongly support prohibiting CBI in petitions to ensure transparency in the process—especially if the CBI pertains to serious environmental and adverse health effects. This may also have the positive effect of deterring companies that have something to hide.
  • Should a fruit antibiotic that adds to the “superbug” problem be allowed for two more years? The NOSB is considering whether to extend the withdrawal date for the antibiotic oxytetracycline, which is used in apple and pear production to prevent fire blight. It’s sprayed on trees, which exposes bacteria in the orchard and especially the soil to the antibiotic, and directly contributes to the “superbug” issue we’ve told you about—the creation of drug-resistant bacteria. There was a lot of public push-back against placing this on the allowed list in the first place. The board wants to extend the withdrawal date to 2016 and add a phase-out plan, even though organic standards require that practices and inputs must maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality. We do not support extending sunset date of oxytetracycline.
  • Should sugar beet fiber be allowed in organic food to increase overall fiber content? Most sugar beets are GE, so we oppose such a proposal, and would insist that the final product be tested for GMO. We’re also concerned that the process for adding sugar beet fiber to organic food doesn’t follow organic processes.

At the last NOSB meeting, ANH-USA strongly opposed allowing dangerous synthetic chemicals in organic food, including organic baby formula. And the board rejected most of these chemicals.

It’s important that we all participate in this process to uphold organic standards and prevent corporate interests from destroying truly organic food. Organic certification is often the only thing consumers can use to distinguish between healthy, sustainable food and industrial farmed foods, most of which contain GMOs.

Action Alert! Send your comments to the NOSB and tell them your stance on each of the agenda items above. Please send them your message today!

Take Action

40 Responses to “Organic Standards in Danger—Unless You Make Your Voice Heard”

  1. Nancy Coscione says:

    Stop allowing large chemical corporations taking over our food supply. Chemical companies should not be dictating food safety and environmental safety policy, yet they do. NO GM contaminated ingredients in our certified organic food and make the chemical companies pay large fines when their chemical “food” crops contaminate the crops of organic and non-gmo conventional crops. Stop allowing the chemical companies to sue farmers whose organic and non-gmo crops have been contaminated. Break up all large food monopolies. When will the USDA, FDA, EPA start actually protecting the American people and the environment, rather than deflecting criticism, protecting and hiding the truth about Monsanto and other chemical corporations at the expense of american citizens, farmers and nature?…all the while, the contamination grows worse and our ability to opt out of the GMO experiment diminishes….

       5 likes

    • Deborah Cady says:

      It would be helpful if we adequately funded the EPA so it could do it’s job. Funding independent research is another option that needs resurrection. At one time the government did independent research on questionable products. Then someone thought up the questionable idea of having Big Pharma do and pay for it’s own research, and provide the EPA and others with their findings. No one questioned that the very research created by Big Pharma would provide findings favorable to Big Pharma.. Who knew??

         0 likes

  2. Concerned Connie says:

    I purchased some organic blueberries at Costco. They were rather large blueberries and they were Driscoll. Those suckers lasted a month in the refrigerator without a hint of decomposition. I had forgotten I had them and when I looked at the package I was shocked. I figured out rather quickly that I can no longer trust the USDA organic stamp. I need the NON GMO stamp of approval. Hopefully, they will stay on the up and up.

       4 likes

    • Nancy says:

      I am hoping that whoever can make a change to the ‘action alert message to be sent to the NOSB will see this.

      The sentence enclosed in ” ” is from that message. I BELIEVE THERE IS AN ERROR.

      “We strongly support prohibiting CBI in petitions to ensure transparency in the process—especially if the CBI pertains to serious environmental and adverse health effects.”

      I THINK THE WRITER MEANT TO SAY ‘SUPPORT INCLUDING (NOT PROHIBITING) CBI’.

      If I am wrong, please let me know.

      I was all ready to hit the TAKE ACTION button, but when I read this….

      Most Sincerely
      Nancy

         1 likes

      • Mary says:

        Thank you, Nancy, for the heads up on the error. As of today, it is STILL not fixed! But, I replaced the word “prohibiting” with “inclusion of” before hitting the Submit button.

        WRONG:
        “We strongly support prohibiting CBI in petitions to ensure transparency in the process—especially if the CBI pertains to serious environmental and adverse health effects.”

        CORRECT: “We strongly support INCLUDING CBI in petitions to ensure transparency in the process—especially if the CBI pertains to serious environmental and adverse health effects.”

           0 likes

  3. Michael Ponzani says:

    It is too expensive for me. I eat from my garden. I do keep certain pesticides around if I need them. I prefer to use organic copper sulfate or phosphate soaps for fungus and bacteria control allong with the slug pellets from Germany. Beer would never make it to the pie pans!

       2 likes

  4. Pace D. Fering says:

    Obviously not a fair “game” when bending the rules is the M.O. More bluntly, must we “make nice” and tolerate systematic serial crimes in progress? Rather than re-defining what is or isn’t organic, it seems IMO that a rating system – by a panel of consumers – might achieve the desired results; 100% organic would have to be 100% organic. Add some synthetic or GMO into an all organic, and it DOES NOT qualify for 100% organic – no ifs, ands, or buts.
    The regulating agencies, unfortunately, seem to thrive on corruption, so we need to be absolutely certain they do not continue to write, and change, their own rules.

       12 likes

  5. Linda Friesen says:

    I have been reading articles all day about different hazards that are keeping our Organic foods from being truly organic. I wish that there was an easier way to sort this all out. Foods that I thought were Organic and somewhat safe aren’t. But they are still more expensive,

       2 likes

    • Concerned Connie says:

      Only buy foods that have the NON-gmo Project stamp on them. Google it, they independently test food.

         2 likes

  6. L McDaniel says:

    Why is it necessary for those of us, who wish not to ingest chemicals and genetically-engineered produce and animal products, to depend on large commercial farm operations to sell us their “organic” produce? There is ample evidence that the term “certified organic” means very little, anyway, with regard to contaminants and health assaults at the dining table!
    Sadly, many small farmers of good conscience religiously plant non-GMO seeds and have clean practices for raising animals and plants. These farmers are forced to sell their products, however, as “conventional” because the current failed system of organic certification is an expensive process and is cost-prohibitive for the little guy (or even mid-sized growers).
    It seems that a cooperative, self-certification among concerned small farmers might be one answer for the expense and corruption of agencies and politics. Has anyone tried to organize a “Small Farmers’ Self-Certification” program (SFSC)?
    Volunteers could help with record-keeping and paperwork. I suppose we have too many government regulations in today’s world for more involvement of volunteers, and that’s sad, too! When I was a kid, I helped a friend’s father at his small egg farm and I have wonderful memories of the clean, happy environment! The owner’s daughter and I acted as the entire quality control department during the summers. Our equipment was a wooden box, which was fitted with an incandescent light bulb on one side and an egg-sized hole on the other. Among other duties, we were paid 2 cents for every blood clot we found in the Grade A eggs, so we were sure to look very carefully!
    I am just sick and tired of the government and lobbyists feeding America a steady diet of poisons and very few of our legislators even being willing to give us their attention! It’s shameful and many countries don’t even want our food products and have outlawed them! There is still wide-spread ignorance in the US about the dangers to our food supply. EDUCATION is so necessary! We need to pass the word, because public outcry is the only thing, which has a prayer of a chance to change the situation.

       4 likes

  7. Candoce Ziegelbauer says:

    Strict standards should be kept for all organic foods. Keep the purity of organics by doing away with synthetic ingredients & not allowing GMOs of any kind. No sunset for oxytetracycline.

       5 likes

  8. Chris Jackson says:

    My family Of six buys organic.
    The extra expense needs to be justified by the standards being tight on organic foods.
    Absence Of tight standards Will lose our dollars and others like us to conventional foods.

       12 likes

  9. Antje Bendleb says:

    Organic foods should be as untreated as possible. There should absolutely not be any GMO added to it, especially not without noting it.

       10 likes

  10. Dr. R says:

    When government creates a regulatory agency, in time that agency becomes co-opted by the very industry it is set up to regulate. This has always been true. The only way to have a proper Certified Organic program is for the producers of organic foods to set up their own voluntary association of organic farmers and producers that will certify foods as organic. Such a certification would, if implemented properly, carry far more weight with consumers than will the increasingly-bogus Certified Organic program.

       14 likes

  11. Jennifer Simpson says:

    Please uphold organic standards in seed purity, animal vaccines, synthetic chemicals, fruit antibiotics, and sugar beet fiber. Thank you for your consideration.

       5 likes

  12. Tamara says:

    Hello,
    I just tried to `take action`but the system will not accept my postal code which in Canada is a 6 digit & numeral combination and not what is specifies it must be.
    Please advise.

    ZIP / Postal Code:
    The zip code must be a numeric 5-digit or 9-digit code.

       0 likes

    • ANH-USA says:

      Hi Tamara–Thank you for your comment. Unfortunately, the software we use to help send our petitions doesn’t allow international zip codes. This is to prevent spam (although I know you are not spam!). I apologize for the inconvenience. Best, ANH

         0 likes

  13. KayDee Stevens says:

    Lol…I won’t shout!

       1 likes

  14. Andreas Aigner says:

    We do not support extending sunset date of oxytetracycline.

    Currently, CBI is not disclosed in the technical evaluation report of a chemical, and it’s not available to the NOSB, much less to the public. But such CBI could include important information regarding environmental and health effects of a chemical. We strongly support prohibiting CBI in petitions to ensure transparency in the process—especially if the CBI pertains to serious environmental and adverse health effects. This may also have the positive effect of deterring companies that have something to hide.

       2 likes

  15. Andreas Aigner says:

    Most sugar beets are GE, so we oppose such a proposal, and would insist that the final product be tested for GMO. We’re also concerned that the process for adding sugar beet fiber to organic food doesn’t follow organic processes.

       2 likes

  16. Joyce Matthys says:

    Hello, I’d love to sign…and share…but the form needs to accept Canadian postal codes. We’d love to help!! Thank you for keeping us informed!

       3 likes

  17. Les Taylor says:

    Enough bull already! What’s wrong with naturally grown food. Why alter god creation.

       1 likes

    • Elyn Jacobs says:

      I don’t believe the standards for selling “organics” are strick enough…who regulates this? I understand certification, but how do we really know that we are buying organics, or are the products just marked and sold as such. We saw this at Walmart, was mentioned with Costco, is likely with Fresh Direct, and what about places such as Fairway? Who monitors these folks from marking up the price and marking produce organic?

         0 likes

  18. Michael Clegg says:

    Thee fight to see that Organic Foods were to recognized was and is a long fought battle, no one show seek to defeat such progress.

    Remember, No Farms, No Food…lets make it all Organic Foods.

       3 likes

  19. John & Shelly Talcott says:

    Absolutely no synthetic ingredients period when it comes to Organic foods.

       3 likes

  20. Linda Zigich says:

    We need to require full disclosure of synthetic substances in our food supply, and not allow them at all in organics. That goes for antibiotics. Full disclosure for any substance even sugar beet fiber unless the sugar beet itself is certified organic. We are not giving enough tests to these genetically modified foods, not enough time to determine their long term effects on our eco system and our sustainability as a civilization. Please, if you were presenting this to God, what would he say?

       3 likes

  21. Chris says:

    Please keep the chemicals, additives, pesticides out of organic food – no synthetic chemicals -that is not organic, remove the ones that are already “approved”.
    GMO sugar beets are not organic- fiber does not meed to be in sugar.
    Oxytetracycline should be banned from being applied to apples – it creates more super bugs, and there is no way to let people allergic to tetracycline be aware it is there
    GMOs should not- not- be in vaccines there is growing documetation on the harmful effects of vaccines due to thermisol and formaldehyde ( which is used to preserve dead animals in).
    Biotech companies should be held accountable for cross contaminating organic plants and weeds – they have already created super weeds and are pushing even more lethal chemicals – to which the weeds will acclimate to also.
    Having board members on the NOS that are members of compaines who produce and push GMO food is a conflict of interest – no question about it. Drug manufacturer do not belong on the board.

       5 likes

  22. Jan Steinman says:

    Then there’s the battle over carrageenan, which is a highly processed chemical allowed as a thickener in organic food. It happens to come from seaweed, and so the food industry calls it “natural,” but it is associated with numerous health problems, and is certainly not “natural” in the state in which it is used as an additive.

       1 likes

  23. WAKE UP!!

       1 likes

  24. Robert Cruder says:

    The scheduling issue smells like intentional exclusion but could be a failure to include. Multi-nationals laid out the picnic. They could not exclude the ants but they did not have to invite them either.

    The term “organic” has different philosophical and ritualistic meanings to different speakers. Rather than being a scientific term, it has more in common with opinions of what actions are allowed or prohibited as “labor” on the Sabbath.

    The multi-nationals need consistent rules and have both the legal and the political clout to dictate marketing terminology even when a scientific definition exists. Does anyone remember the legal case that designated the tomato as a vegetable rather than as a fruit? Perhaps someone remembers the case that allowed Mobil to market a refined petroleum-based lubricant as if it were the more expensive fully synthetic product.

    The multi-nationals probably have legal arguments under which virtually any product could be marketed as “organic”. While the scientific argument does not always prevail against them, nothing else has any chance at all.

    The CBI issue discussed above could well be a winner but please do separate it from the GMO discussion. Both the multi-nationals and (IMHO) the USDA consider the GMO issue to be settled. GMO complaints will be ignored along with any other issues raised by the same speaker.

       1 likes

    • Marianna Anthony says:

      Why are we quietly allowing ANYONE to ignore GMO foods polluting the foods we eat? It has become impossible to eat corn of any kind that is NOT GMO. The corn, which is patented, spreads rapidly to other farms and pollutes the organic , non GMO varieties. Some really big names in the production industry are at the top of the list, and have even gotten previously reliable grocery companies to agree to sign on to sell their products. Of course, without the agreement the grocer couldn’t buy from them, and they are the only source that’s out there. Corrruption is everywhere, with billions at stake. Health is not a consideration. Better double check on your (formerly) natural foods!

         0 likes

  25. Mary Cuchna says:

    I have Amish neighbors who are organic growers. I am pretty sure they already know about this, but I’d like to bring it to their attention and ask them to write letters to the NOSB. Can you provide a mailing address where such letters can be snail mailed?
    thanks.
    Mary

       1 likes

  26. Cheryl Brown-Raines says:

    Organic standards are critical to turning the tide for healthier American families.

       0 likes

  27. Judith Wester says:

    I hate the fact that Monsanto is this lurking giant over all that we consume. It’s unhealthy and unethical that this mega-corporate parasite is leaching all that is good out of our food and is treatened by those of us who want “real food” that isn’t going to eventually give us cancer or some other awful disease.

       1 likes

  28. Robert Taylor says:

    There shouldn’t be any lowering of the Organic standard. Purity is especially important to prevent “creeping contamination.” Not only should there be stricter protocols to ensure pure organic seeds, there should be systematic testing of organic seeds for GMO contamination as part of the certification process. And biotechnology companies should be held accountable for any GMO contamination of organic seeds—even if it was unintentional. I strongly oppose any GMO vaccines in organic livestock.

    “Confidential business information” (CBI) could include important information regarding environmental and health effects of a chemical. We strongly support prohibiting CBI in petitions to ensure transparency in the process—especially if the CBI pertains to serious environmental and adverse health effects.

    The NOSB is considering whether to extend the withdrawal date for the antibiotic oxytetracycline, which is used in apple and pear production to prevent fire blight. It’s sprayed on trees, which exposes bacteria in the orchard and especially the soil to the antibiotic, and directly contributes to the “superbug” issue —the creation of drug-resistant bacteria. There was a lot of public pushback against placing this on the allowed list in the first place. The board wants to extend the withdrawal date to 2016 and add a phase-out plan, even though organic standards require that practices and inputs must maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality. I do not support extending sunset date of oxytetracycline.

       1 likes

  29. donna roberson says:

    Keep our organic food pure and unaltered

       0 likes

  30. Shari Morgan says:

    If people really want to know the truth. We do not need any bug sprays if the plants are healthy. If bugs eat a healthy plant they get sick and most die. Contact Advancing Eco-Agriculture. Gary Reding is a plant & soil Health consultant. I attended a seminar which had some staggering information concerning GMO, bugs, the true health of plants.

       0 likes

  31. Tim says:

    It’s pretty outrageous that any synthetic chemical can be considered organic. I am so tired of companies trying to corrupt everything for a buck. That’s the primary motivation I can think of to try to get synthetic chemicals approved as “organic”.

       1 likes

  32. Tracy Hackett says:

    We must stay vigilant about having access to unadulterated foods. Especially since most of us do not have the space or luxury to grow our own. Conventional growing and processing practices only profit the corporation responsible for it at the expense of public health.

       0 likes

  33. Razzle says:

    The way your letter is worded on the CBI is wrong. It should state, “We strongly support allowing CBI in petitions…”

       1 likes

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