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Consumers Union & OCA Criticize USDA for Latest Appointments of So-Called "Consumer Representatives" to the National Organic Standards Board

Jan. 19, 2005

Dear Secretary Johanns,

We, the undersigned consumer groups, strongly support the role of the
National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to serve as a multi-stakeholder
advisory group to the United States Department of Agriculture's National
Organic Program as defined by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. We
strongly support the specific, designated, appointed roles of the NOSB which
include four farmers/growers, two handlers/processors, one retailer, one
scientist, three consumer/public interest advocates, three
environmentalists, and one certifying agent each of whom serve for a five
year term. We believe that the interests represented by each group are
vital to the authenticity of the NOSB.

For these reasons, we feel that it is important to voice concern and
opposition to the recently announced appointments of Katrina Heinze, a
manager at General Mills and Daniel Giacomini, a consultant to the organic
dairy industry to serve as consumer / public interest representatives on the
NOSB. These individuals do not reflect the specific interests of consumers
or the public but rather the interests of the industry. For example,
General Mills is a large corporation that has a vested interest in the sales
of organic food products, which is in conflict with representing a consumer
/ public interest position on the NOSB.

We believe that the veracity of the consumer / public interest positions is
being compromised by these appointments. These individuals may be
appropriate to serve for industry-related slots on the NOSB but it is
misleading to have them represent the interests of consumers and the public
interest. We believe that these positions need to be filled by those who
are working directly on behalf of consumers and the public -- not by those
who are benefiting financially from the organic industry or from the sales
of organic food to consumers.

As strong supporters of a public National Organic Program and the diverse
but distinct roles defined by law for the NOSB, we urge you to reconsider
these appointments and to take the time to find individuals who's sole
purpose is to represent consumers and has no financial stake in the sale of
any one organic product. Please feel free to contact us if you have any
questions.


Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist and Policy Analyst
Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher Consumer Reports
101 Truman Avenue
Yonkers, NY 10703
914-378-2211
urangan@consumer.org

Ronnie Cummins
National Director
Organic Consumers Association
6771 South Silver Hill Drive
Finland, MN 55603
218-226-4164
ronnie@organicconsumers.org