April 19, 2014

Organic Standards in Danger Unless You Make Your Voice Heard

organic 300x240 Organic Standards in Danger Unless You Make Your Voice Heard

by Alliance for Natural Health

It’s like they’re saying, “Ssh! If we keep quiet enough, nobody will complain!” Let’s not let them get away with it. Action Alert!

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) will hold its spring board meeting in April. As you probably know, NOSB is the governing board created by Congress that reviews all synthetic and non-organic materials proposed by Big Farma before they can be used in organic farming or food production.

For thirty days before each meeting, the public is supposed to be invited to scrutinize and comment on the topics that will come up at the NOSB meetings—a wide range of issues that significantly affect organic standards—and the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) is supposed to announce it. This time, however, the NOP failed to send out any public announcement about the thirty-day comment period, not even in their own e-newsletter, before the comment period began. The Cornucopia Institute discovered information about the April meeting, buried deep in the NOP website, after the comment period had already begun. Two days after the Cornucopia article appeared, NOP made the public announcement through their Organic Insider newsletter, costing stakeholders valuable time. Had this information been buried by mistake or on purpose? We don’t know.

Thank goodness Cornucopia discovered it, because public comment is vital to keep the NOSB accountable in the face of an increasingly cozy relationship between NOSB and Big Farma, and a serious dilution of organic standards. For example, the list of synthetic ingredients that are allowed in Certified Organic products is growing. As we reported previously, in 2002, the NOSB allowed only 72 chemicals. Since then, over 250 more chemicals have been added.

The majority of organic brands are owned by the biggest food manufacturers, and some them have seats on the NOSB. In 2011, a General Mills executive was on the board, and this year an exec from Driscoll’s, which markets both conventional and organic berries, held a seat on the board that was supposed to be filled by a farmer. After public outcry she resigned—but rejoined the NOSB in a different capacity.

Issues discussed in the NOSB meeting ahead could seriously undermine organic standards—unless you and other grassroots activists are willing to voice your strong objections:

  • How to control GMO contamination of organic seeds? Seed purity is especially important to prevent “creeping contamination.” Not only should there be stricter protocols to ensure pure organic seeds, there should be systematic testing of organic seeds for GMO contamination as part of the certification process. And biotechnology companies should be held accountable for any GMO contamination of organic seeds—even if it was unintentional. Under current organic rules, there are no strict practices ensuring that organic seeds are not contaminated with GMO. GMOs are considered an excluded “method” that should be prevented by best practices, but the actual organic product itself is not tested for GMOs. Testing usually occurs when there is “reason to believe” that organic food is contaminated with GMOs.
  • How to deal with GMOs in vaccines? Under current organic regulations, animal vaccines using GMOs are not allowed, unless specifically approved by the NOP. However, the NOP hasn’t identified which vaccines contain GMOs in the first place, resulting in GMO vaccine use and weak enforcement. The NOSB will discuss how to identify GMO vaccines; we believe it should it be defined as any technology that creates a targeted change or mutation in the genome; it certainly shouldn’t be something that is evaluated on a case-by case basis, another option that is being considered. We strongly oppose any GMO vaccines in organic livestock.
  • Should “confidential business information” (CBI) be allowed in a petitioner’s request for a synthetic chemical to be added to the organic “allowed” list? Currently, CBI is not disclosed in the technical evaluation report of a chemical, and it’s not available to the NOSB, much less to the public. But such CBI could include important information regarding environmental and health effects of a chemical. We strongly support prohibiting CBI in petitions to ensure transparency in the process—especially if the CBI pertains to serious environmental and adverse health effects. This may also have the positive effect of deterring companies that have something to hide.
  • Should a fruit antibiotic that adds to the “superbug” problem be allowed for two more years? The NOSB is considering whether to extend the withdrawal date for the antibiotic oxytetracycline, which is used in apple and pear production to prevent fire blight. It’s sprayed on trees, which exposes bacteria in the orchard and especially the soil to the antibiotic, and directly contributes to the “superbug” issue we’ve told you about—the creation of drug-resistant bacteria. There was a lot of public push-back against placing this on the allowed list in the first place. The board wants to extend the withdrawal date to 2016 and add a phase-out plan, even though organic standards require that practices and inputs must maintain or improve the natural resources of the operation, including soil and water quality. We do not support extending sunset date of oxytetracycline.
  • Should sugar beet fiber be allowed in organic food to increase overall fiber content? Most sugar beets are GE, so we oppose such a proposal, and would insist that the final product be tested for GMO. We’re also concerned that the process for adding sugar beet fiber to organic food doesn’t follow organic processes.

At the last NOSB meeting, ANH-USA strongly opposed allowing dangerous synthetic chemicals in organic food, including organic baby formula. And the board rejected most of these chemicals.

It’s important that we all participate in this process to uphold organic standards and prevent corporate interests from destroying truly organic food. Organic certification is often the only thing consumers can use to distinguish between healthy, sustainable food and industrial farmed foods, most of which contain GMOs.

Action Alert! Send your comments to the NOSB and tell them your stance on each of the agenda items above. Please send them your message today!

Take Action1 Organic Standards in Danger Unless You Make Your Voice Heard

0 commentsback to post

Other articlesgo to homepage

Russian Family Gardens Produce 40% of Russian Food

Russian Family Gardens Produce 40% of Russian Food

Earlier this month, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev stated that Russia will not import GMO products because Russia has enough space and resources to produce organic food.

This was not a political statement of posturing, given the current cool relations between the U.S. and Russia over the Ukraine. As it turns out, Russia’s food security is light years ahead of the U.S.

As you will read below, a significant portion of the Russian population own “dachas,” or seasonal garden homes, where they can grow their own food. At the height of the communist era, it is reported that these dachas produced 90% of the nation’s food. Today, with the land now privatized, they still comprise about 40% of the nation’s food.

Compare that with the United States, where less than 1% of the population controls the food, and small-scale family farms have for the most part been bought out by huge Biotech corporations.

Russia Bans Import of GMO Products – Promotes Organic Food

Russia Bans Import of GMO Products – Promotes Organic Food

Russia will not import GMO products, the country’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, adding that the nation has enough space and resources to produce organic food.

Moscow has no reason to encourage the production of genetically modified products or import them into the country, Medvedev told a congress of deputies from rural settlements on Saturday.

“If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” he said.

Study: Roundup Herbicide 125 Times More Toxic Than Regulators Say

Study: Roundup Herbicide 125 Times More Toxic Than Regulators Say

A highly concerning new study published in the journal Biomedical Research International reveals that despite the still relatively benign reputation of agrochemicals such as Roundup herbicide, many chemical formulations upon which the modern agricultural system depend are far more toxic than present regulatory tests performed on them reveal. Roundup herbicide, for instance, was found to be 125 times more toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate studied in isolation.

Food Security: Why Congress Should Care About the Beepocalypse

Food Security: Why Congress Should Care About the Beepocalypse

This year, food security is set to suffer another big setback, and the culprit could not be cuter: honeybees. Last winter, America’s beekeeping industry lost nearly half of all its bee colonies. And the numbers keep falling. Last summer, in the largest bee kill on record, more than 50,000 bumblebees were killed in Oregon as a direct result of exposure to an insecticide applied to trees for cosmetic purposes.

The killing has gotten so bad that people are calling it a beepocalypse. This is a serious situation. One-third of the food produced in North America depends on pollination by our honeybees. Nearly 100 varieties of fruits depend on honeybee pollination, from almonds (which are California’s third-largest export) to avocados to apples to cranberries.

America, then, must act fast if we want to save our bees, our food and our economic productivity.

U.S. GMO Policy Hurting Exports, Costing Jobs, As China Rejects US GMO Corn

U.S. GMO Policy Hurting Exports, Costing Jobs, As China Rejects US GMO Corn

Health concerns aside, U.S. GMO policy is damaging the U.S. economy and costing jobs. China just announced they were rejecting U.S. GMO corn in favor of Brazilian corn, draining hundreds of millions of dollars out of the U.S. economy.

read more

Get the news right in your inbox!