Organic Consumers Association

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'Bio-based': Organic's Sketchy New Cousin

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page , and our Agriculture and Climate page.


Thanks to the USDA and the 2002 farm bill, products made from least a quarter "renewable plant, animal, marine, or forestry materials" can get a special "bio-based" label. Supposedly it's like the organic or Energy Star labels, but for your glass cleaner and foamy hand soap made from renewable ingredients. The USDA's press release says the bio-based label will help make green shopping decisions easier.

Oh really, USDA? More like make greenwashing and confusion easier. For one, not only could products with genetically modified ingredients get the label, but there'd be no mention of their GM bits, points out Green Biz.

And what exactly can get the label? Could a fur coat be labeled "bio-based," implying that it's green? The animal rights people will looooove that. Do lipstick-makers just need to up the amount of fish scales they use? Or what about a product made from 25 percent bluefin tuna? Does the word "extinction" mean anything to you people?! (Ahem.)


Clarifies Green Biz:

  The labeling program excludes anything that falls into the category of "mature markets," which the USDA says covers anything that had significant market share in 1972. That leaves out things like cotton T-shirts and paper plates.

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