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We Can No Longer Rely on USDA Organic Standards


We Can No Longer Rely on Organic Standard

by Alliance for Natural Health [1]

The USDA’s organics program has been taken over by corporate interests; it’s time to fight back. Action Alert! [2]


Consumers looking for clean, healthy food have for years turned to foods with the USDA’s organic seal. This seal is understood to mean that the food has been grown in accordance with organic principles—most importantly, that the farming practices promote healthy soil, which in turn produces healthy food.

Unfortunately, corporate influence has infected the USDA’s organic program to such an extent that it can be difficult to trust the organic seal.

Concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) have taken over organic eggs and dairy.

According to organic standards, livestock are supposed [3] to have access to the outdoors, fresh air, and sunlight.

But these provisions have been interpreted in such a way as to allow CAFOs to confine animals to barns but add “porches”—a roof built over a concrete floor with screens as walls—and still label their livestock as “organic.”

This allows CAFOs to continue to raise millions of chickens or livestock on the cheap in cramped, squalid conditions but charge the organic premium.

The USDA estimates [4] that half of all organic eggs come from CAFOs.

This is crucial for those seeking healthier options: organic eggs have been found to contain more micronutrients [5] than conventional eggs: organic eggs have three times more omega-3 fatty acids, 40% more vitamin A, and twice as much vitamin E. Buying CAFO-raised organic eggs means consumers are not getting the benefits they think they are.

Organic milk suffers from a similar problem: half of organic milk sold in the US comes from CAFOs, according [6] to the Cornucopia Institute.

Recent exposés [7] have detailed how CAFOs try to cheat the system by not pasturing their cows as required by organic standards. Real organic milk from grass-fed cows contains more conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), an unsaturated fat that studies have shown [8] helps protect the heart and help in weight loss.

Again, consumers are being duped into thinking they’re buying healthier milk when organic rules are manipulated and broken in these ways.

What can be done to save real organic agriculture? Unfortunately, the USDA doesn’t seem to care.

The government’s program has totally been co-opted by industry: it isn’t small, independent organic farmers who want CAFO milk and eggs and hydroponic produce to be organic.

We can also see the fingerprints of corporate influence through the ever-growing list [9] of synthetic additives that have been allowed in organic production.

More than 250 non-organic substances are currently allowed, up from 77 in 2002.

For example, General Mills, Campbell’s Soup, Organic Valley, Earthbound Farms, and Whole Foods Market voted to include ammonium nonanoate, an herbicide, in organic production—a vote which they ultimately lost.

The growing consolidation [10] of the industry also gives larger corporations an edge over the dwindling number of independent farmers who do not have powerful lobbyists at their disposal.

The USDA also has no mandate to promote organic agriculture, since it would be doing so at the expense of conventional agriculture which is represented by powerful special interests.

We’ll also point out that the organic standard did not start out as a government program. It began as a movement of private certifiers [11] in the 1970’s and 80’s. States began passing [12] their own standards. It wasn’t until 1990 that the federal government got involved with establishing its own organic program, opening the door for Big Food corruption.

Read the full article at Alliance for Natural Health [1].

Glyphosate-Tested500 [13]

The Healthy Traditions Glyphosate-tested Program [13]. Foods with this logo have been tested for the presence of glyphosate.

Who-owns-organics-2016 [14]

Click to enlarge. Source [15].

Who Owns Organics infographic from The Cornucopia Institute [15].

The first wave of acquisitions of organic processors was concentrated between December, 1997 and October, 2002.  This period coincides with the initial release of the draft USDA organic standards and its full implementation in October, 2002. A second wave of acquisitions in the organic sector has been occurring since 2012. Surprisingly few major corporate agribusinesses note ownership ties on their acquisitions’ product labels.

Dr. Phil Howard [16], an Associate Professor in the Department of Community Sustainability at Michigan State and author of the infographic above, has identified some significant updates to his Who Owns Organic Chart, including:

The Cornucopia Institute [15]