Organic Consumers Association

Tell Congress: Protect Organic Standards!

Congress and the Trump Administration’s U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) are threatening to make changes to the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)—changes that could weaken organic standards beyond recognition.

Take Action! Tell Your Senators and Congress Members: Protect the Organic Foods Production Act, and let the National Organic Standards Board do its job!

As an organic consumer, you know from experience that eating organic is essential to keeping yourself and your family healthy. Organic isn’t perfect. But buying USDA Organic is the best way to avoid pesticides, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and synthetic ingredients.

Since Congress passed the OFPA in 1990, big business has lobbied to weaken standards.

In 2005, Congress passed a law that made it a lot easier for the largest food companies to create “organic” versions of their factory farm and processed foods, in order to cash in on growing demand for organics. Since then, many of the “organic” products Big Food has delivered to the big-box stores have failed to live up to consumer expectations.

In a series of recent articles, the Washington Post highlighted some of the worst “organic imposters.” For example:

•    Eggland’s Best eggs, marketed as certified organic by Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch, come from hens that never go outside. (Even before the Post’s expose, OCA had called for a boycott of Eggland’s Best eggs).

•    Aurora Organic Dairy, which supplies organic milk to Walmart, Costco and other major retailers, doesn’t adhere to organic standards that require cows to be outdoors daily during the growing season.

•    Imported “organic” soy and corn aren’t actually organic.

•    Some “organic” foods contain a synthetic oil brewed in industrial vats of algae.

Add to the above a recent New York Times article on how samples of mac and cheese, including organic, contain phthalates (hormone-disrupting chemicals that migrate into food products from processing or packaging). It’s easy to see how consumers could come to lose faith in the organic seal.

The solution? Strengthen, not weaken, organic standards and the certification process used to enforce them. Unfortunately, unless consumers demand it, the USDA could do just the opposite.

The OFPA was designed to spur continuous improvements. Congress knew it would be tough for the organic industry to get started. But lawmakers wanted to make sure non-organic substances would be removed from production, and regulations would be tightened up once organic seeds, animals, land, ingredients and processing became more available. So, they set up a democratic process for improving organic standards through the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).

Since the Organic Consumers Association formed in 1998, we’ve gone to battle with every administration over the integrity and enforcement of organic standards. The Clinton Administration tried to get GMOs into organic. The Bush Administration made it easier to get synthetics into organic. The Obama Administration made it harder to get synthetics out of organic.

But the Trump Administration and the current Congress may prove to be the biggest threat to organic yet. The news from Capitol Hill is that Congress plans on “reforming the National Organic Standards Board” so that it can no longer be used by organic advocates to address problems with large-scale industrial “organic” chicken, egg and dairy farms.

What does “reform” mean to the current administration? In addition to making it more difficult for consumer advocacy groups to participate in the process, it also means increasing Big Food’s influence.

According to a recent report in Politico, “reforming the NOSB” could mean expanding the 15-member NOSB Board by adding more members from “larger operations”—meaning, operations akin to those of Herbruck’s and Aurora, the very companies that are already violating organic standards and who would presumably push for weakening those standards even further.

The Trump Administration has made its position on regulations clear: more industry involvement, more concern for corporate profits, and less concern for consumer rights, public health, the environment.

Congress needs to hear from consumers—often, and in large numbers—that we want stronger, not weaker organic standards that support small, authentic producers.

Take Action! Tell Your Senators and Congress Members: Protect the Organic Foods Production Act, and let the National Organic Standards Board do its job!


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