Date: Tue, 24 Feb 1998 10:09:21 -0500
From: malcolm ian gardner <email@example.com> (by way of BIODYNAMIC MAIL
Subject: Re: NOP summary outline
Anne, at 02:48 PM 2/23/98, you wrote:
>I don't believe that a national [minimum] definition would be unduly
>In my view, it just sits there as a floor that everyone claiming to be
>organic would be expected to meet, and if they were certified, they
>would have to meet.
You seem to be saying that if the USDA would just make the current
proposed definition of the concept "organic" into a minimum standard rather
than an absolute standard, you would have no problem with it. You seem to
think that Demeter standards will always be stricter than those of the USDA.
But what if the USDA decides that some or all products MUST be irradiated?
Impossible? I don't think so. With meat and poultry I think it's almost
inevitable. What about the "order of preference lists for farmers" that you
mention in your "Summary Outline"? What about mandatory residue testing,
not to mention mandatory fees? All this would come along even with a
minimum standard. You don't find this unduly oppressive??
>... our purpose in agreeing to a
>national definition of organic was to throw a bone to the folks who want
>a more complete government involvement. There still are folks around -
>many - who [don't] want to see government regulate organic, they just
>want to see legitimate standards. By agreeing to a limited involvement
>via a definition, we can still remain at the table and a part of the
>whereas if we take a position of governmental hands off, we will be cast
>in the role of 'radical'.
The assumption here is that "legitimate standards" must be national,
i.e., governmental. Why is this assumption made? As far as I can tell, the
sole reason is for marketing convenience. Convenience, however, is a very
dangerous principle to be guided by. Uniformity and monoculture are
"convenient"; diversity and individuality are always "inconvenient." For
the sake of this convenience, Congress was petitioned to establish a
mandatory national standard, which led to the Organic Foods Production Act,
and now to the USDA's Proposed Rule. In other words, because it was
inconvenient to deal with many independent standards and reach voluntary
agreements, some people asked the government to IMPOSE a consistent standard
on everyone. This, however, was an anti-social deed, or more precisely, an
anti-individual deed. For the sake of the growth of the organic food
movement as a whole, it was deemed acceptable to sacrifice the freedom of
individuals to truthfully represent different standards. The end justified
the means. No one should be surprised that this deed has spawned a monster
who now threatens to consume his creators. Inviting in the government is
the kiss of death for culture, which always depends on individuality and
which also includes individual standards in agri-culture. The choice you
refer to is between dialogue at a PRISON table among bitter prisoners and
dialogue among individuals who respect each other's FREEDOM (the "radical"
option). If we don't recognize this reality very soon, we shall no longer
have a choice.
>... perhaps we should just accept being the 'radical' player and say we
>want absolutely no government involvement. This may be a hard sell
>when we approach our congresspersons, but we can always hold it as
>our ideal ultimate goal.
The United States was founded on the idea of individual freedom. It
would not be necessary to "sell" this idea at all if we had not already
"bought" into the idea that government could bring economic prosperity to
the organic food movement. As mentioned before, I think a judicial remedy
should be pursued at least as vigorously as a legislative one. We will not
be successful in either case, however, unless we can free ourselves from
enthrallment by the God of Convenience, who is in fact the Prime Inspirer of
all those multi-national agribusinesses that we love to hate. Only if we
refuse to make inner compromises with our ideals, will our ideals have the
strength to light up in the minds of other people--congresspersons, judges,
the public at large, and, above all, the other members of the organic food
movement. With perseverence and idealism it is certainly possible to come
up with a language of definitions that preserves individual freedoms and
also allows commerce to flourish.
Malcolm Ian Gardner
>Date: Wed, 25 Feb 1998 10:03:46 -0500
>From: firstname.lastname@example.org (by way of BIODYNAMIC MAIL LIST)
>Subject: Malcom's comment
>Malcolm .. there is a world of difference between a minimum standard and
>a low standard. Never in a million years would Demeter advocate for the
>low minimum standards we are presented with in the proposed rule. If I
>have given this impression I have totally failed in my communications .
>Enid at VT-NOFA put it succintly .. "We wanted a strong floor and
>instead we got a weak ceiling."
>I am under the impression that many people will pick up on the low
>minimum standards set forth without my pounding the issue in every
>communication. I have tried to raise other issues that are often
>overlooked .. such as the minimum/maximum jail we are locked in, the
>taking over of private certification programs, the using of private
>certifiers to do USDAs work with not only no reimbursement but with a
>huge chunk of change floated to usda in the process, with capturing of
>the word 'organic' and every other remotely similar word they can get
>their hands on, with telling certifiers what order of preference in
>management farmers should be following, with the 'taking' of trademarks,
>with the totally unrealistic fees, with the mandatory nature of the Act.
>This last point may be moot, but I think we need to constantly be awake
>to this atrocity.
>Anne Mendenhall, Demeter Association, Inc.
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