eak: This remains to be seen. After 6 years of following every move of
developing the Proposed Organic Rule, my observations are that no factory
farm interest has tried or had any substantial influence on the Proposed Rule
writing process. In the food processing world, a Beechnut Purina employee
was appointed and served a 3 or 4 year term on the NOSB. He did appear to
exert undue influence on the Final NOSB Recommendation regarding the labeling
of processed organic foods, so as to make them contradictory to the Organic
Foods Production Act (OFPA). Each of the two handling operation
representatives under OFPA were to be a person "who own or operate an organic
handling operation", however, very shortly after being appointed, B. Purina
quite producing any "organic" product. USDA should have asked for the B.
Purina representative's resignation, but did not.
The Board in 1997 now contains a handling operation representative associated
with Cascadian Farms, a organic food handling operation, which is now owned
by Disney interest. The most negative point about his appointment is he was
appointed to follow directly on the completed term of Gene Kahn, the CEO of
Cascadian Farms who was on the NOSB for 4 years. Moreover, the 1997 NOSB
contains 4 people that are inextricable connected in other professional
affairs. Fred Kirschenmann is the Executive of the Board of the Wallace
Institute of Sustainable Agriculture which employees Kathleen Merrigan, who
is also on the Board. Fred Krischenmann is also on the Board of Mothers and
Others of which Joan Gussow, who is on the NOSB, is or was the Executive of
the Mothers and Others Board. Betsey Lyden, an employee of Mothers and
Others also sits on the Board. This statement is not made to diminish the
quality of each of these NOSB members work, but to clarify that if a quality
process NOSB appointment is not implemented now, vested interest can use the
same process to manipulate the work of future NOSBs.
What all this shows is the Board appointments were made without considering
the language of OFPA or perceived conflict of interest. It is hoped that the
criteria stated in OFPA for NOSB membership appointments will be followed in
the future. Likewise, appointments need to made consistent with criteria
that does not allow undue influence by any single interest.
The most controversial proposed regulations to be put forth in
>>November by the USDA will include: (1) allowing genetically engineered
>>foods and crops to be eventually considered on a case-by-case basis as an
>>allowable "synthetic" and thus be labeled as "organic"; (2) allowing
>>inhumane, intensive confinement of farm animals, and not explicitly
>>prohibiting factory farm-style operations; (3) precluding "private label"
>>and state organic certification programs from upholding and enforcing
>>stricter organic standards than those required by the USDA.
eak: At this point I am tempted to say you are full of hogwash. But then
lets take this on a point by point basis.
1.) It is an error to state this as fact. You do not know this as fact.
Secondly, if you recall OFPA, all synthetic substances are prohibited in
organic farming and handling. In OFPA there is possible exemptions only for
11 categories of synthetic active substances that can be used in organic
farming, of which only 4 or those categories can even be considered for
exemption (and if listed on the National List could be used in organic farm
production). Those categories are pheromones, medicines and synthetic
parasiticides used in livestock production and toxins derived from bacteria.
There is no possible allowance or exemption for the use of transgenetic or
genetically modified organisms or their derivatives in any other categories
to be used on a certified organic farm. This includes genetically modified
and transgenetic plant and animal materials. Under OFPA there is no
possible allowance or exemption for any, again any, synthetic substance in
processed organic food labeled and sold as "organic".
The sooner we all read and acknowledge the significance and language of OFPA,
the sooner we can engage the pertinent issues as they arrive rather than
fight a phantom, burning up everyone's energy and time.
2.) Neither the NOSB Final Recommendations nor OFPA itself "allows inhumane,
intensive confinement of farm animals". The Proposed Organic Rule will have
to conform to OFPA. OFPA does not "explicitly prohibiting factory
farm-style operations", nor does the NOSB Final Recommendations. What both
do say is how livestock have to be treated. OFPA sets forth the highest
organic standard for livestock farming that exist in the universe of organic
standards. The NOSB was consistent with the OFPA by in the Final
Recommendations requiring 100% organically produced feed for slaughter
animals from last 1/3 of gestation and that dairy stock must be fed 100%
organically produced feed for 12 months before the sale of milk or dairy
The NOSB improved on OFPA by recommending that all pasture land on which
livestock eat must be certified as organic and "The action of a producer to
withhold treatment to maintain the organic status of an individual livestock
animal which results in the otherwise avoidable suffering or death of the
animal shall be a grounds for decertification." Plus, the NOSB recommended:
"A production environment which limits livestock stress and promotes
livestock health shall be provided; it must include the following factors: a)
access to shade, shelter, fresh air, and daylight suitable to the species,
the stage of production, the climate, and the environment;....c) a housing
design which provides for: natural maintenance, comfort behaviors, and the
opportunity to exercise; temperature level, ventilation, and air circulation
suitable to the species; and the reduction of potential for livestock injury
and d) a proper manure management system to reduce disease and parasite
recycling and which also optimizes nutrient recycling and minimizes soil and
water degradation." It is foreseen that these recommendations will be
incorporated in the Proposed Organic Rule.
The NOSB Final Recommendations state "Livestock confinement standards to be
developed later." The Proposed Organic Rule comment period is a very good
time to present viewpoint on such standards.
The NOSB did make one recommendation that is in direct conflict with OFPA.
They made a blanket recommendation that antibiotics and synthetic
parasiticides could be administrated to dairy stock with only a 90 day
withdrawal period. OFPA states dairy stock must be feed 12 months without
prohibited substances (like medicines, parasiticides unless they are
petitioned, reviewed and included for specific use or application on the
3) Your suggestion that the Proposed Organic Rule "precludes "private label"
and state organic certification programs from upholding and enforcing
stricter organic standards than those required by the USDA" is incorrect in
regard to States. Under OFPA, State organic certification programs and
standards can be implemented with approval of the Secretary of AG, provided
they enhance and do not conflict with the OFPA standards and program. Under
OFPA, States and private for profit or non profit organic certification
agencies are not on the same equal footing. Just as all corporations and
States are not on an equal footing. Within their jursidiction States have
more legal power then corporations. States have the authority to make laws
and maintain a militia in contrast to corporations who do not.
Private certifying agents under OFPA will not be allowed "higher" or "other
organic standards". Both private certifying agents and States under OFPA
will only be allowed to certify organic farms and handling operations as
"organic" if they are accredited by the USDA. Under OFPA every USDA
accredited organic certifying agent is required to use the National Organic
Program standards in determining whether a farm or handling operation can be
licensed to label and sell their products as "organic". Under OFPA there is
and will be only one, consistent and uniform standard of organic farm and
handling operation production and certification for products labeled and sold
as "organic" in the US. That is what OFPA says. That is what Congress
passed with everyone having their say in advance of passage.
Under the NOP, accredited organic certifying agents (private or States) can
use their seals or logos in any way they wish to identify their work. In
fact, accredited certifying agents can certify to any other standard of
production or handling they want, except that they can not use the language
or imply "higher then the National Organic Program" standards. A private
certifier can certify that no manure was used, that beneficial insects were
used rather then botanicals pesticides and such language can be stated on the
package. Under OFPA there is only one, consistent and uniform standard of
organic farm and handling operation production and certification.
>>Finally the USDA plans, according to government sources, to work with the
>>Congress and the Clinton administration to amend the 1990 Organic Foods
>>Production Act so as to weaken or eliminate the present "veto power" of the
>>National Organic Standards Board, an official advisory group, over what can
>>be considered as an allowable "synthetic."
eak: Interesting. Please provide some verifiable information when you get
By the way, the NOSB does not have "veto power". Every substance that can be
considered for inclusion on the National List of: 1) exempted synthetics
(active synthetic substances and synthetic inert ingredients in pesticides
used in organic farming), 2) prohibited naturals and 3) for use in the 5% of
non-synthetic but not organically produced ingredients in processed organic
foods under OFPA must be petitioned, then information collected, be reviewed
scientifically and technically and then evaluated. If the NOSB, after
evaluation, does not approve by a 2/3 vote of the members present to send the
proposed substance for further review by USDA, EPA and FDA, there is no
further discussion until another petition is presented. If the petition of
the substance fails, it is not included on the National List.
The fourteen member NOSB
>>currently supports relatively strict organic standards, at least in
>>comparison to what the USDA advocates, including a recommended prohibition
>>on considering genetically engineered foods and crops as an allowable
eak: When you use the term "USDA advocates" it is appropriate to
differentiate between what USDA as the agency advocates for conventional
production and what the NOP staff have submitted as the Proposed Organic
Rule. USDA can have different polices for different production sectors, i.e.
conventional and organic. If you have factual information on the Proposed
Organic Rule content before it is published, I and multitudes would
appreciate knowing that. If you do not have factual information, you are
doing a disservice to continue diverting attention from very important issues
related to implementing OFPA . Of great concern is to make sure processed
"organic" foods do not have synthetic processing aids, food additives,
"natural" flavorings (which are synthetic) and synthetic ingredients as the
NOSB has recommended.
>>As soon as the proposed regulations appear in the Federal Register,
>>accompanied by an official "docket number," address, email address, and fax
>>number, the PFC urges everyone to flood the USDA with critical comments.
>>Natural food stores, farmers markets, and community restaurants are urged
>>to turn their businesses into centers of letter-writing and activism, and
>>to mobilize their workers, members, and customers to take action both
>>during and after the 90 day official comment period.
>>People sending in their comments by email are urged to make "hard copies"
>>of these comments as well and mail them in to USDA with the appropriate
>>address and docket number in Washington, D.C. Sympathetic government
>>officials have warned that the USDA cannot always be trusted to make an
>>honest count of all comments received (especially those sent by email) and
>>to make them available for public inspection by activists, attorneys,
>>journalists, and other concerned citizens. People are also urged to send
>>their comments in the form of a constituent letter to their state and
>>federal legislators, and then to follow this up with a phone call asking
>>legislators to contact the USDA officials directly and tell them not to
>>weaken present organic standards and not to take away the power of states
>>and private certification bodies to uphold stricter standards than the USDA
eak: It is absolutely necessary to understand OFPA, review the Proposed Rule
and provide informed comment. Anything less will have no effect. Contrary
to the way you present the comment period, it is not a vote. The question is
to have the Final Rule conform to the Organic Foods Production Act. I would
stress the need for understanding the Act. Certainly, having large numbers
of people support the rule conforming to the Act will have a substantial and
powerful effect. Misinformation regarding the details and comprehensiveness
of the Act will stimulate misinformed comment.
>>Since June, when the USDA handed over its proposed rules to the Office of
>>Management and Budget (OMB), controversy over organic food standards has
>>been steadily building. (See "Whose Organic Standards: USDA Prepares for an
>>'Unfriendly Takeover' of the Natural Foods Industry" and "Preserving Strict
>>Organic Food Standards: Six Steps to Begin 'Live Wire' Networking and
>>Public Education in Your Local Area" on the PFC website
>><http://www.geocities.com/Athens/1527>. Hundreds of retail food coops,
>>natural food stores, buying clubs, community-supported agriculture
>>organizations, organic farmers, community restaurants, public interest
>>organizations, and natural food manufacturers have vowed to fight USDA
>>moves to significantly degrade current organic standards,
eak: At this point in the rule writing process, you are correct in sighting
that it is the USDA who could divert the NOP from conforming to OFPA.
Whether they propose to do that or not remains to be seen.
with the Pure
>>Food Campaign, Greenpeace, Sustain, Mothers for Natural Law and other
>>non-governmental organizations (NGOs) preparing themselves for an extended
>>battle on the issue. The PFC and other NGOs, along with a national network
>>of food coops, have recently launched a campaign called "SOS" (Save Organic
>>Standards), which is designed to build up a nationwide "Live Wire Network"
>>of activist-inclined consumers, farmers, progressive retailers,
>>community-oriented restaurants, and food professionals.
>>According to Washington insiders, the USDA, the USTR (U.S. Trade
>>Representative's office), and the OMB have clashed over the USDA's proposed
>>national organic standards. The OMB has lobbied basically to keep the
>>current set of (private and state certification) rules in place and not
>>have national regulations,
eak: Sir, your above statement reflects some nuances or espionage we are not
privy to. If this statement was true, OMB would be in contempt of Congress
and the Constitution. OPFA clearly states the USDA Secretary will implement
a National Organic Program within which States and private organic certifying
agents must conform.
while the USTR bureaucrats predictably have
>>argued that we shouldn't have process-based (i.e. genetic engineering etc.)
>>rules at all, since these types of regulations "inhibit free trade."
>>Despite these internal disagreements, the USDA viewpoint has prevailed.
>>The USDA, reacting to unexpectedly determined resistance, has decided on a
>>more subtle strategy than what they initially envisioned to deal with the
>>genetically engineered foods controversy. Instead of using relatively
>>explicit language in the proposed federal rules that would allow
>>genetically engineered foods to be labeled organic on a case-by-case
eak: That strategy isn't very subtle. Examination on a case by case basis
has been the policy of USDA and EPA for a long while.
a move opposed by nearly everyone in the natural foods industry--the
>>USDA has decided on a different tactic: basically to use ambiguous language
>>for the moment (an outright prohibition has never even been seriously
>>considered) and then wait for Congress to weaken or eliminate altogether
>>the veto power of the National Organic Standards Board. With the passage of
>>time the USDA will be able to "stack" the NOSB with more agribusiness and
>>biotech-friendly appointees. With this more sophisticated strategy the USDA
>>intends to divide and coopt its critics, including those on the NOSB, get
>>its new proposed rules in place, and then to lift the gene-foods
>>prohibition, with or without the support of the NOSB, when it is more
eak: Sounds like a good conspiracy theory. Could be correct. It is our job
to prevent it from happening.
>>As organic foods consultant Bill Wolf, past president of the Organic Trade
>>Association, explained in an article written by Nancy Nachman-Hunt in the
>>October issue of Natural Business, a leading natural foods industry trade
>>publication, "since the Clinton administration has come out in favor of
>>genetic engineering for conventional agriculture, the development of
>>organic standards has become a battleground for the larger worldwide social
>>issue... The reason the regulations have been delayed so long is because
>>they present a difficult issue for the administration."
eak: More hogwash. The reason for delay is very simple. Really, almost no
one but those actively doing organic farming and handling and certification
knew and know what it is. Most of the NOSB, USDA and the rest of the
governments could hardly be expected to implement an act without getting at
least 50% of the information on what organic is. We have spent 6 years
conveying that and still continue.
>>then went on to point out that "If the standards come out banning GMOs in
>>organic agriculture, the administration's EU policy could backfire."
eak: No, the US government's policy to consider every GMO on a case by case
will not be undermined by prohibiting GMOs in organics or only allowing
examination of GMOs in the 4 categories allowed under OFPA. The US
government will have two policies, one for conventional and one for organic.
Your logic has missed a gear. The administration is not using the National
Organic Program as part of its "EU policy" on GMOs. Having two different
policies for GMOs will work out the best for the Administration and for
private business. They can develop both markets.
One principal we should all know by now is that being absolute never works.
Hitler tried, racist try, sexist try, the US in Vietnam tried, corporations
try. It will never work in the long run. What we all want is pure and
unadulterated food. We will get it, and quicker, if we don't bite our own
Best Regards, Eric Kindberg
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