Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Is the USDA’s Certified Organic Label a “Fraud?”

I’ve written on this issue in the past, but due to the buzz surrounding the recently published article in the New York Times, I thought it necessary to restate my position.

First let me say that I agree with Michael Potter that the growth of “organic” has attracted many Big Food companies that are much more interested in profits than in the quality of the foods they produce. This leads to cutting corners when it comes to quality, excessive lobbying for corporate interests within the organic sector, and in some cases breads outright corruption.

And, as I’ve explained in a previous post, I agree that genetically modified ingredients, or any ingredients manufactured using genetically modified substances as a medium, should never be approved under USDA organic standards! The same goes for synthetic ingredients manufactured in a lab using chemical processes.

I also agree that the USDA seems to have an unhealthy bias towards Big Food when it comes to appointing members to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

These issues need to be addressed, and true organic advocates must to continue to band together to make their voices heard by supporting companies that produce great products, as well as rallying behind organizations like The Cornucopia Institute that are working tirelessly to support sustainable and organic agriculture.

With that said, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. The USDA’s organic program has done a great deal to bring transparency and integrity to the organic food movement. I know first-hand that there are many wonderful organic products being produced under the USDA Organic label by hardworking farmers and visionary business owners, and I couldn’t agree more with Cornucopia Institute’s co-director, Mark Kastel’s when he says, “we implore consumers not to reject organics because a handful of corporations have acted recklessly and the USDA has failed to do their legally mandated job. Organic farmers, and their ethical processing partners, need your support now more than ever.”