The superior food quality standards placed on organic food in the U.S. are under attack by corporate representatives from Big Agra who have crept their way onto the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB).
In recent years, the board has lost its transparency, favoring and even granting, anonymity to large-scale producers in violation of organic standards, weakened its caliber for regulating synthetic materials and abolished a subcommittee responsible for maintaining ethical oversight.
The 15-member advisory board was created in 1990 by the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and designed to make recommendations intended to preserve and protect the organic farming industry.
However, those passionate about organic food are not standing by idly. Taking an aggressive stand is the Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based research group that provides information regarding sustainable and organic agriculture to consumers and family farmers.
Preserve the standards of our organic food and fill out this letter!
The non-profit is taking action through the filing of a proxy letter against the alleged corruption at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and calling on Secretary Tom Vilsack to replace the board’s management. Click here to print out a copy of the proxy letter and either mail or fax it to the information provided.(1)
Cornucopia decided to use a proxy letter after being told by USDA officials that online petitions mean nothing because they are so many of them in circulation. However, when tangible boxes of proxy letters are delivered to the agency, employees must “scan each letter into their system and type out each name to reply. Thousands of these proxies, literally, carry a lot of weight.”
Miles McEvoy became director of the National Organic Program in 2009. His background in organic certification and inspection made him appear to be a good candidate, says Cornucopia. However, his actions have proved that he’s completely sold out to the special interests of Big Agriculture.
“Mr. McEvoy has stripped much of the power from the NOSB. Along with the illegal stacking of the board with agribusiness executives instead of working farmers, this body has become a rubber stamp for corporate/industrial organics,” Cornucopia says.
Organic board standards deteriorating under current director Miles McEvoy
In 2013, McEvoy said the board was entering the “age of enforcement” in which violators of organic standards would be penalized and held accountable; however, the opposite has transpired.
Instead of going after large-scale “organic” producers violating the federal standards, NOSB has cracked down on smaller operators – likely in an attempt to eliminate competition for corporations set on cutting corners to piggyback off healthy food trends, instead of maintaining sustainable and humanely produced food practices – the heart and soul of the organics movement.
Cornucopia and 14 other stakeholders have filed a lawsuit challenging the NOSB changes implemented by McEvoy. The non-profit is accusing the board and McEvoy of the following:
- Ignoring NOSB recommendations to ban nanomaterials in organic food and packaging based on inadequate science about its safety
- Allowing “giant, multimillion-dollar ‘farms’ to grow plants in synthetic additives” and artificial lighting and permitting them to be labeled “organic.” (Note – “U.S. organic law requires plants to be grown in soil, with the focus on enhancing soil fertility, thus positively impacting the nutritional content of organic food.”)
- Voting to keep the synthetic thickening agent carrageenan in infant formula, despite the board’s 2012 vote to ban it from baby formula. (Note – research shows carrageenan causes gastrointestinal inflammation and is linked to colon cancer in lab animals.)
- Cease ignoring the advice and counsel of the National Organic Standards Board: The NOSB has been bypassed, and policy resolutions it has adopted have been ignored or countermanded. These include recommendations to prohibit engineered nanomaterials in organics, carrageenan in organic infant formula, and soilless/hydroponic production from being certified as organic.
- Stop undermining the authority of the NOSB: In a break with congressional intent and a 20+ year precedent of respecting the NOSB’s authority, NOP leadership stripped the board’s ability to set their own procedures, work plan, and agenda. This demonstrates gross disrespect to the organic community.
- Restore the Sunset provision Congress established to limit synthetics/non-organic ingredients and inputs in organics: The two primary authors of OFPA, Senator Leahy and Congressman DeFazio, both have stated to you that the action to gut the Sunset provisions was a violation of the intent of Congress. This decision should be reversed and its architect should be removed from his position of authority.
- Establish judicious enforcement: The NOP has allowed “factory farms” to operate that are clearly in violation of the law, refusing to investigate scofflaws. In cases where willful violation of organic standards has been found, the NOP has failed to publicly identify these operations, preventing their examples from acting as a deterrent to other industry players. Furthermore, the NOP has let violators off the hook with “sweetheart” negotiated deals (again, in secrecy) and has mishandled serious cases of alleged fraud.
- Safeguard the integrity of seats on the NOSB: Congress specifically created designated positions on the board to assure diverse representation by all organic stakeholders: farmers, certifiers, consumer advocates, retailers, manufacturers, environmentalists, and scientists. This mandate has been illegally violated by the appointment of corporate executives representing agribusiness interests and by individuals who have never even attended an NOSB meeting. The appointment process should be open to public scrutiny, and only the best and brightest in the organic community should be appointed to the NOSB.
- Cease the investments in public relations and disingenuous proclamations about “transparency”: Start posting all public documents on the NOP website and fully complying with requests under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
For more information on corporate influence subverting organic standards, click here.
To learn about Cornucopia’s investigation into organic fraud, click here.