(longer that I wanted)
Sunday, March 26, 2000, 1:48:55 PM, you wrote:
RN> Steve Groff wrote:
>>> Organic agriculture is simply a phase in a larger process that's far
>>> from over. It's been an important phase but may be close to having
>>> served it's purpose (if the world is now ready for the next and more
>>> comprehensive phase).
>>now that's a thought....I'm ready to move on!
RN> I think there is a real danger in this attitude of making a fatal
RN> strategic error.
Really? I better pay attention then (I wouldn't want to make a fatal
RN> Much of what we are involved in here is a struggle for *meaning*,
RN> a struggle for the hearts and minds of consumers, as one food
RN> industry CEO put it, about the meaning of such concepts as 'food
RN> quality' and 'organic'.
"a struggle for the hearts and minds of consumers". Right away we see
RN> The important thing about 'organic' is that it does have a meaning
RN> for consumers, now to the tune of 6 billion a year in the US and
RN> $10 billion in Europe.
It's very interesting that your definition of "The important thing
about 'organic'" relates directly to the dollar figure of the market.
This is is significance of the fact "that it does have a meaning for
RN> This has been a hard won battle in which thousands of farmers from
RN> all over the world have contributed at great sacrifice and for
RN> many years (The world has 7.5 million hectares of certified
RN> organic farmland, only 900,000 of them are in the US).
Tell us about it, Ron.
RN> It is true that there is now a food industry assault on the
RN> meaning of organic, lead by the USDA. This is inevitable. For
RN> years, the goal of many people in the organic farming community
RN> was to make organics the 'mainstream' method of farming.
Actually, very few. Most in the industry wanted to maintain the
exclusivity of the market.
RN> As that goal becomes imaginable, struggles over what the word
RN> means are bound to occur.
The law is a law that ties up the market. It does NOT concentrate on
defining what is or what isn't organic. According to OFPA, organic
is whatever OFPA says it is, and what OFPA says it is is USDA
Certified Organic - and nothing else can use the word.
Where's the meaning of the word ORGANIC, Ron? It's in the bowels of
OFPA! You really believe you are going to control that? What have been
the results so far? The fox is in the hen house (Have you been reading
Sal's posts over the past 3'4 years? What he's had to tolerate makes
Chiapas look tame).
RN> Laws and regulations are inevitable.
What's inevitable is the struggle in reaction to badly drafted laws
that commit needless abuses on many of those ostensibly targeted for
RN> Compromises will be necessary.
THAT is throwing in the towel (see Ron's following note): Announced
compromises. Like which? What are you going to give in exchange for
what? This is too glib.
RN> The important thing is to *be there* to contest the meaning of
RN> organic and make sure the compromises are acceptable--not throw in
RN> the towel!
I refer you to my recent post in which I provided:
The url of the NOP home page: http://www.ams.usda.gov/nop/ where you
review the REVISED PROPOSED RULE in html format, piece by piece;
The url of the entire REVISED PROPOSED RULE in .pdf format:
And the time frame during which the REVISED PROPOSED RULE Comment
Period is open for comments: March 13-June 12! Right Now!
You are totally mistaken about throwing in the towel. However, while
myself and others are focusing on the unconstitutional police state
tactics supposedly legalized via OFPA in relation to the organic
market (one more time: OFPA is a law about marketing, more than about
standards, until such time as the new standard is left to stand or
fail on it's own merit, in the same way a buyer will accept products
certified by some organizations and not by others, while some buyers
need NO third party intervention); other concerned persons totally
ignore that issue and choose to tackle the standards issues, only.
Many of those even (mistakenly, to my mind), support mandatory
certification, as if that were where the value of the product really
lies - which IS a lie.
One thing IS for sure, to the degree that certification is mandated by
law in order to so much as say your product is what it is (if it's
organic), you'd BETTER make sure your Organic Rule is what it should
be, because THAT'S what's putting the credibility of the organic
industry on the line: The obligatory nature of USDA Certification,
wherever the word organic is used. There were credible certifiers out
there before OFPA.
I repeat: Leave OFPA as is, with mandatory USDA Certification for
products called organic and you'd BETTER get the rule right. *I* say
it's better *not* to bet on that (sure, get your comments to the man),
but making OFPA a choice rather than a strait jacket is the prudent
Let USDA Certification stand on it's own merit by removing the
mandatory aspect of certification, while fully attempting to leave a
consistent and organic Organic Rule in place for those who need it, if
and when a consensus is reached that's congruent with the meaning of
organic that those involved with the movement have believed it meant.
(I began growing organically in 1968 in San Marcos CA, on 17 acres
that is now a trailer park and have NEVER applied a synthetic
agrochemical to any crop I've planted).
RN> If we abandon the organic concept to industry, the bureaucrats and
RN> unscrupulous marketeers we are abandoning our most valuable
RN> allies: the consumers who support organic farmers. Not only is
RN> this unethical, I think it would be stupid.
It's also not very smart to believe that that either Steve or I have
suggested doing that. Neither is it very smart to fail to see that the
movement IS under fire and in danger of being co-opted. What CAN'T be
co-opted are the principles involved, the ones that gave meaning to
the WORD organic in the first place. Those principles are perfectly
applicable to present and future movements you may or may not be aware
of. (Or is God available only through YOUR church)? And the publics
awareness of the principles involved is NOT dependent on a given word.
It will take far less time to establish new and related concepts that
it did to provide an established meaning for the word organic. The
public has awakened and is looking for viable solutions, not more
RN> I think you attitude is unrealistic, Steve.
I'm sure Steve knows his own business quite well. If he's not
certifying his products as organic, I assume his customers don't
require third party organic certification. Maybe they've got first
hand knowledge of what they're getting (and paying for).
RN> With industry aggressively pedalling their version of 'organic'
RN> nobody is going to hear you talking about "locally grown and
RN> sustainable". People will ask you, "but is it organic?" and they
RN> will want hear a yes or no answer.
I don't know who you're dealing with in Mexico City, but anyone who
can't see beyond the label is not a customer I care about. The
importance of OPFA in Mexico however (where virtually no market for
organic products exists at present - with a very few exceptions), will
relate directly to the fact that the Mexican regulation was designed
to comply with OFPA's call for a similar structure existing in
countries that export organic products to the US.
RN> You can bet that "micro-farming", or even "sustainable" will never
RN> be significant food product labels nor have any meaning for
RN> consumers. (locally grown, maybe). These are academic and politcal
RN> concepts bantied about among a tiny group of specialists in places
RN> like this list and at UN meetings.
You seem awfully sure of that. You must get around quite a bit, and be
a true visionary.
In fact, any lasting and generalized changes will come from serious
research efforts such as those being carried out at the Wallace
Institute and many others. I was recently (and pleasantly) surprised
to check out (out of curiosity) the organization that Misha is now
working with, Redefining Progress <http://www.rprogress.org/>. That's
where it's at, Ron.
RN> Organic, on the other hand, is now part of our public vocabulary
RN> throughout the world. The important thing now is to *defend what
RN> it means*.
Do it Ron. But try to understand that the provisions of OFPA, once
they take effect, will do as much if not more harm than good, if the
word organic is locked by law into being USDA Certified Organic and
nothing else. Why you don't you help defend YOUR and MY RIGHT to
define organic? Why insist on letting the feds Have the final word?
Have they done a good job to date?
The response to that is threefold. 1).- Fight through the website,
letter, faxes, telegrams etc and MENTION that the obligatory
certification provisions of OFPA are inappropriate, opprobrious and
oppressive to both the organic industry and consumers of organic
products, in addition to whatever comments you believe are appropriate
regarding organic Standards.
I am fully aware that the obligatory certification provisions of OFPA
are not at officially at issue. Even so, this is a proper time to take
advantage of the open channel and register those remarks with those
who are now the new owners of the word organic.
It's either that or start over with new concepts, except that the
public's consciousness really isn't that linked to the word - not as
much as you seem to think it is. Words are just pointers, anyway; and
the public's not as dumb as you suggest.
Numbers 2 and 3 are fight OFPA in Court and start a new movement, *if
RN> This has to be with a focus on responsible ecological farming and
RN> processing as the basis for organic certification, I agree that
RN> the natural vs synthetic distinction is a problem organic farmers
RN> and certifiers have avoided facing too long.
No one here has suggested avoiding those issues.
RN> No one has wanted to open the pandora's box that would require us
RN> to define criteria by which practices are acceptable or not. It's
RN> easier just to say, "that material is synthetic so its out". But
RN> that is what we have to do. Can hydroponics be acceptable for
RN> terrestrial crops, even if the chemicals used are 'natural? Does
RN> applying excessive amounts of chicken manure compost to a field,
RN> causing runoff and soil microbiology problems, be classified as
RN> organic? We have to have agroecological and farmings system
RN> criteria to answer these questions unambiguously and we have to
RN> insist on thrm as the meaing behind *certified organic*.
These are the only issues that you consider valid? You totally ignore
the political issue.
RN> If the US fails to adequately define organic, it will simply be
RN> left behind by Europe and the rest of the world as it is being
RN> left behind with the GMOs.
Don't confuse the US with the USDA. To the degree OFPA strays from
IFOAM's standards, it's certification won't mean much elsewhere. But
US growers will hang in there one way or another.
RN> I admit, the battle looks pretty heavily stacked against us. But
RN> if we run away from the struggle to define the meaning of organic
RN> then they'll just mop us up, one by one.
Nobodies running away from anything, Ron. I suggest you learn more
about other things that are happening out there though. As important
as the organic market is, it's certainly not the only show in town. A
number people here on sanet are involved with other things that go far
beyond the organic market (and I don't mean in terms of the
$6,000,000.°° you cited).
When one has decided to do something, he or she does it. It's a shame
you've refused to recognize the validity of other people's efforts and
hope you are able to correct that deficiency.
As for OFPA, I intend to make use of the www channel and comment
period and hope others will do the same. I also some some share the
concerns that I and others have with mandatory organic certification
and choose to express them.
I would much prefer a standards based law to a certification based
law, although the standards published by NOP so far haven't been
encouraging (I intend to review the revised standard thoroughly, and
there's still time for that).
RN> Ronald Nigh Dana, A.C.
RN> Mexico, D.F. & San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas Tel. y FAX
RN> 525-666-73-66 (DF) 529-678-72-15 (Chiapas)
Douglas Hinds - CeDeCoR, A.C.
Centro para el Desarrollo Comunitario y Rural, Asociacion Civil
(Center for Rural and Community Development,
a Mexican non-profit organization)
Cordoba, Veracruz; Cd. Guzman, Jalisco; Loma Bonita, Oaxaca
& Reynosa, Tamaulipas Mexico
No soy una monedita de oro, para caerle bien a todos.
To Unsubscribe: Email email@example.com with the command
"unsubscribe sanet-mg". If you receive the digest format, use the command
To Subscribe to Digest: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with the command
All messages to sanet-mg are archived at:
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Wed Apr 05 2000 - 20:00:34 EDT