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OCA Victory! Organic Non-Food Products Qualify Says USDA

Craig Minowa 320-237-0432
August 24, 2005 Adam Eidinger 202-744-2671

Breaking News! 8/24/05

USDA Yields in Battle Over Access of

Personal Care to National Organic Program

Organic Non-Food Products Qualify Says USDA

WASHINGTON, DC – On the eve of a deadline requiring the USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) to respond to a federal court complaint filed in June by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), representing more than 500,000 members, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps / Dr. Bronner’s & Sun Dog’s Magic (www.drbronnersundog.com), the USDA has directed in a memo to organic certifiers that certified non-food products specifically including personal care may represent that they are NOP certified “organic” or “made with organic,” and display the USDA organic seal, so long as such products are certified to meet the NOP standards for organic agricultural products.

"We are pleased that USDA has decided to follow the law and promote the interests of consumers by recognizing that certified organic producers are indeed able to access the NOP program and display the USDA organic seal,” said Joe Sandler, the lead attorney handling the complaint. USDA NOP’s directive puts to rest the USDA’s attempt earlier this year to prevent certified organic non-food products from accessing the NOP program and displaying the USDA organic seal. This would have reversed the USDA’s long-standing policy that explicitly invited companies to certify non-food products to NOP standards and earn the USDA organic seal. Such a reversal would have destroyed good faith investments while depriving consumers of the ability to tell the difference between a mislabeled or misbranded “organic” personal care product from a bona fide NOP certified organic product.

The complaint, which will likely be withdrawn by OCA/Dr. Bronner’s following settlement talks over the next 30 days, was part of OCA’s Coming Clean Campaign for strong organic standards, under which thousands of consumers and hundreds of businesses have been mobilized. “This is a major victory for organic consumers who rely on NOP certification to ensure that their personal care and other non-food consumable products like pet foods contain real organic ingredients free from unnecessary synthetic ingredients,” said Ronnie Cummins, OCA founder and National Director.

“Thanks to USDA’s wise decision, brands such as Dr. Bronner’s & Sun Dog’s Magic that support organic agriculture and farmers with all the integrity the National Organic Program intends, can continue to display the USDA organic seal,” said David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner’s/Sun Dog that manufacturers certified organic lotions, balms and soaps made with organic oils. “We look forward to an amicable settlement of our lawsuit against the USDA and are thrilled to have played a part in preserving NOP access for certified non-food products.” Lynn Betz, Founder and President of Sensibility Soaps that produces over 20 certified organic personal care products, stated: “I commend NOP Administrator Barbara Robinson and USDA’s ‘change of heart’ in regards to certifying personal care products under the National Organic Program. Supporting the integrity of certified organic claims in the marketplace is of immeasurable benefit to organic consumers, farmers and suppliers as well as organic personal care manufacturers.”

Congresswoman Melissa Hart (R-PA) in whose district Sensibility Soaps is located was a leading champion for organic consumers and industry in Congress to ensure that access to the NOP would be preserved for qualified non-food products. In a letter Rep. Hart stated, ”In addition to business concerns it is important for consumers to see the USDA organic seal when selecting personal care products because many individuals who purchase organic products do so because they are allergic to certain processed ingredients that are often in non-organic products.” Other organic caucus members in Congress were also very supportive. Organizations and businesses that expressed opposition to NOP’s attempted change in policy included: the Organic Trade Association, California Certified Organic Farmers, Friends of the Earth, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Bath & Body Works and the American Herbal Products Association.

More information may be found at http://www.organicconsumers.org/bodycare/
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