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Letter to the Congressional Organic Caucus -Stop Attack on Organic Integrity

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's All About Organics page and our Safeguard Organic Standards page.

NOTE: PCC Natural Markets, in Seattle, coordinated a letter to members of Congress expressing the concerns from three dozen retailers about the arbitrary changes made by the USDA to NOSB governance and advice over organic food and agriculture.  These changes continue to trouble Cornucopia and many others in the organic community.

PCC Natural Markets

To the Congressional Organic Caucus,

We the undersigned organizations are writing to ask you to advocate reversal of USDA's unilateral changes to the organic program's Sunset Provision. We believe these changes violate the intent and the letter of the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA).

A high bar to allow and renew synthetics

We have re-read OFPA and the letters from Sen. Leahy and Rep. DeFazio to Sec. Vilsack, as well as the letter from three former chairs of the National Organic Standards Board, and we respectfully disagree with the Deputy Administrator's statement that the changes "shouldn't make it harder" to remove items from the National List.

NOP staff has admitted in various settings that materials up for Sunset from the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances were subject to being removed by a minority vote, and that materials some interests wanted to renew [leave on the list] weren't getting enough votes, so USDA changed the voting process. In other words, NOP staff has admitted publicly it changed the rules to make it easier to keep synthetics on the National List.

OFPA established the two-thirds supermajority requirement for "Decisive Votes" [Sec. 2119 (i)] intentionally to establish a very high hurdle for prohibited synthetics to be allowed, even temporarily, in organics. Within the context of the overarching principle in Sec. 2105 [7 USC 6504], that foods labeled organic must be "produced and handled without the use of synthetic chemicals  ," Congress certainly intended the Sunset Provision to emphasize the temporary nature of exemptions.

USDA's policy change makes relisting and renewal of synthetics much easier. Now, only six votes are needed for a synthetic to be allowed continued use, not the 10-vote supermajority mandated by OFPA. This assumes the full board even gets to vote on the relisting, since the murky nature of how these materials would be handled in subcommittees seems to preclude a full board vote if the subcommittee approves continued use.

Now, even if nine NOSB members oppose relisting, a six-vote minority favoring continued use would determine the "Decisive Vote" to enable continued use. This is contrary to Congressional intent for consensus in requiring a supermajority for Decisive Votes, through any plain reading of the law.

OFPA's framers meant clearly to establish a very high hurdle to add an exemption and to renew any exemptions - not a high hurdle to allow, and a low hurdle to renew.