If Government Says It’s Organic, It’s Probably Not
Foods carrying the USDA ‘95% organic’ seal are now allowed to contain factory farmed intestines, PCBs and mercury
Despite receiving more than 10,000 comments from consumers and family farmers opposing various aspects of a late May proposal, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a rule that will allow 38 new, non-organic ingredients to be allowed in products bearing the “USDA Organic” seal.
But the agency says this may just be interim approval, and has offered to extend the public comment period another 60 days (the original public comment period was only 7 days).
The Organic Consumers Association filed a petition during the USDA’s short seven-day comment period on the issue outlining various problems with some of the proposed ingredients (read full petition at www. organ i cconsumer s .org/ar t i c l es/ article_5225.cfm). The USDA is required to post all such incoming comments online, and 99 percent of the comments currently posted there show the public opposes the agency adoption of this proposal.
The USDA’s decision to loosen organic labeling requirements has resulted in the following:
• Anheuser Busch will be allowed to sell its “Organic Wild Hops Beer” without using any organic hops at all.
• Sausages, brats, and breakfast links labeled as “USDA Organic” are now allowed to contain intestines from factory farmed animals raised on chemically grown feed, synthetic hormones, and antibiotics.
• Products labeled as “USDA Organic” and containing fish oil may contain toxins such as PCBs and mercury (note: nonorganic fish oil products have this same risk, but despite the USDA ruling, it is against the National Organic Standards to allow such toxins in organic foods). “It’s disheartening to see how businesses like Kraft, Wal-Mart and Anheuser-Busch have more sway over the U.S. Department of Agriculture than family farmers, independent organic producers and consumers,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA’s National Director.
OCA’s Environmental Scientist, Craig Minowa, noted that foods labeled as 100% organic will still be 100% organic.
“This rule applies to products that are 95% organic or less,” said Minowa of the USDA’s decision, adding that “The ruling is yet another reason for organic-minded shoppers to carefully read ingredient labels, look for ‘100% Organic’ labels, and buy from local family farmers via your area co-op, farmers market or CSA.”
Other groups have discussed the creation of private organic certification organizations that would set standards regarding what can be considered organic. This, they argue, would give consumers more choice and transparency
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