Loren introduces some good insights in her response, although I'm not sure
I understand some of her allusions--particularly why some people would
think this is an inappropriate forum for discussion of organic standards.
I'm working on a book about the "bigger picture" meaning of organic,
including the case history of how the "organic community" (which Loren
correctly identifies as far from unified) has shot itself in the head over
the whole issue of federal regulations. A couple of responses to Loren are
included here, but if anyone is interested in seeing an outline of my book
proposal you can send me an email request individually (firstname.lastname@example.org).
former USDA/NOP staff
>The reasoning is complex for the GMO issue. [snip] However, the very useful
>division of materials into categories of synthetic and natural (before
>the word twisters managed to make the terms useless) made it clear that
>the GMOs were themselves synthetic. So there was no need to change
>anything for organic foods to meet the needs of the anti GMO folks.
Actually, the agency at USDA responsible for regulating GMO's (APHIS)
strenuously objected to any intimation that they be considered
synthetic--we had to argue that they should be prohibited because of their
incompatibility with a system of organic farming & handling. Furthermore,
IMHO, the division of materials into "synthetic" and "natural" is not only
NOT useful, but is the root cause of most of the insanity that has dragged
the organic discussion down the drain of debating materials lists as
opposed to concentrating on assessing a holistic management system.
>I personally, if I were the despot of the planet, would permit GE
>chymosin for cheesemaking and absolutely no other GE product that I know
Everyone has their pet exceptions, and there is probably a long list of
enzymes and such similar to chymosin that at this time are important to
many cherished food products and unavailable except as GMO products. The
point is to establish principles for making distinctions that have some
relationship to the ecological concepts on which organic was (once upon a
[snip] The fundamental problem with national organic standards is
>right in the beginning:
>"This national program
>is intended to facilitate interstate commerce and marketing of fresh and
>processed food that is organically produced and to
>assure consumers that such products meet consistent, uniform standards."
>I don't have any interest in facilitating interstate commerce.
>How could a standard with this as its primary goal possibly serve the
>same needs as those of the environmentally minded food buyer? Why would
>anybody expect it to?
Our goal, perhaps naively, was to develop uniform standards for a
production process, not product quality--this is very compatible with
environmentally minded food buyers. Uniformity in this context refers to
consistency in applying organic principles to management systems, and
doesn't imply that everyone does it exactly the same way, or produces
exactly the same results.
I'm afraid I didn't follow the remaining points about people being allowed
to want what they want, or something like that. The only comment I have is
that people are often convinced that they want something based on clever
marketing, and that politicians are exceptionally good at making people
think they are giving them what they want--this is all a propos of both the
"bill of goods" sold to consumers by the organic marketers about what
organic products were supposed to represent (i.e., "safer" and "purer"
food), and to the response to the public comment in the current version of
the proposed rule. I'll say no more--
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