sanet-mg-digest Tuesday, January 20 1998 Volume 01 : Number 142
In this issue:
Effect of new labeling rules on farmers who are not organic
RE: Biological research, - another twist
Cal Poly Permaculture/Ecofarm Conference
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Date: Tue, 20 Jan 1998 16:23:34 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Effect of new labeling rules on farmers who are not organic
Appreciate your concerns. I think two points should be emphasized. Firstly,
all labels on food products in the US must not deceive or mislead the
purchaser. FDA and FSIS enforce compliance with this principal that is
embodied in Federal law. Secondly, when a business or farm describes its
product as "ecologically grown" it should be realized that the descriptive
words are subject to interpretation, both by the labeler and the purchaser. I
would venture to say they have no clear or defined meaning. Contrary, a
statement like "no hormones, antibiotics or synthetic parasiticides used" are
clear and we can say define well regarding the management techniques used in
With these thoughts in mind, lets look at the Organic Foods Production Act.
It says .
"§2106 COMPLIANCE REQUIREMENTS.
(a) DOMESTIC PRODUCTS.
(1) IN GENERAL. On or after October 1, 1993
(A) a person may sell or label an agricultural product as organically produced
only if such product is produced and handled in accordance with this title;
(B) no person may affix a label to, or provide other market information
concerning, an agricultural product if such label or information implies,
directly or indirectly, that such product is produced and handled using
organic methods, except in accordance with this title."
OFPA establishes what is generally termed "prelabel approval," certification,
for using the organic label, although of a different order from Food Safety
and Inspection Service's "prelabel approval" approach in meat labeling.
Whenever a type of "prelabel approval" is incorporated in law, it is only
common sense and practical regulatory management to not allow "market
information concerning, an agricultural product if such label or information
implies, directly or indirectly, that such product is produced and handled
using" the methods of production or handling described in the applicable law.
Therefore, a label, for instance "ecologically grown" being used on products
is not inconsistent with OFPA although it may be very poorly quantified. Nor
are the labels, "no hormones, antibiotics or synthetic parasiticides used" or
"no pesticides used" contrary to OFPA.
USDA asked for comment on the possibility of not allowing the use of these
labels. (In fact, USDA did not incorporate this suggestion within the actual
Proposed Rule, but asked the question within the Supplementary Information.)
I hope this explanation makes clear that when a Proposed Rule is put out, we
must respond or bureaucracies will extend their power beyond what the
authorizing statue calls for.
Eric Kindberg, certified organic farmer
So far, it seems like all the farmers' comments on the Proposed Federal
Rule on SANET come from farmers who are already certified organic, or at
use the word "organic" to describe what they do. I wonder about the comments
from farmers who choose to grow food without pesticides, for example, but
not to be labeled as organic (perhaps because they use some synthetic
fertilizer). The new rule would prohibit them from claiming not to use
pesticides when that is a true claim.
Or, to give another example, a local apple grower has to use a very limited
amount of synthetic insecticide to control plum curculio. He does not claim
be organic, and he labels his fruit as "ecologically grown." He would
presumably be unable to do that in the future.
In short, the proposed rule would remove ability to label food for steps
more sustainable production. Either the food is organic, or it has to be
marketed without any claim toward sustainability. This would, I think, widen
the gulf between certified organic farmers and those who may have very
farming practices but choose not to be certified as organic.
Are any farmers who are affected by this aspect of the rule making comments
CT Agricultural Experiment Station
P.O. Box 1106
New Haven, CT 06504 >>
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