Organic Standards are in Jeopardy!

Food First (Institute for Food and Development Policy)


April 1998

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is proposing regulations to the 1990 Organic Food Production Act that would undermine the basic tenets of organic farming and allow the use of hazardous substances and processes in organic food production.

Problems with the Proposed National Organic Standards:

Irradiation (Ionizing Radiation)

Irradiation is the process of using ionizing radiation to kill food born pathogens. It can actually create new chemicals in food (radiolytic products) including cancer-causing benzene and formaldehyde. It destroys essential vitamins and nutrients and uses a waste by-product of nuclear weapons and nuclear power plants. Sewage sludge (Big-solids)

Bio-solids is another name for the sludge coming from municipal sewage facilities. This is a toxic soup of human, residential, industrial and hospital waste, as well as runoff from lawns, streets and farmlands. It can include heavy metals (cadmium and lead), synthetic chemicals, including pesticides and PCBs, detergents, pathogens and even radioactive waste. These chemicals can cause a variety of health impacts from cancer to neurological and hormone damage. Genetically Engineered Organisms (GEOs)

Genetic engineering of plants and other living things is an unproved technology without sufficient scientific data to document the long-term impacts of GEOs on the environment or human health. Some GEOs contain unnatural traits that could spread to related species through crossbreeding.

Toxic chemicals

Under the proposed regulations toxic chemicals would be allowed in organic food production including some that are possible human carcinogens or cause other adverse health effects. Some of these toxic chemicals would be allowed as 'inert' ingredients in pesticides approved for use in organic production.

No Eco-labeling

The proposed regulations would prevent producers and manufacturers from identifying products in the store based on production practices. The kind of labels that would be prohibited include: "produced without synthetic pesticides," "produced without synthetic fertilizers," "raised without hormones" etc.

And More!

USDA's proposals would also prohibit private certifiers from adhering to a higher standard, permit 20% non-organic feed in organic dairy operations, and allow inhumane factory farm-style living conditions for organic livestock.

Act Now

The system as proposed by USDA is not organic farming. Rather, it is an effort to dilute the integrity of the booming organic industry which is based on tough standards and consumer trust, in favor of powerful, non-organic corporate interest. Both CDFA and USDA need to hear what you think of these proposals. Contact your Congressperson and your Senators as well.

Environment watch