Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy

Is the Organic Seal Worth It, Given Disputes on Standards?

Is paying more for organic milk, meat or a can of beans worth it?

The “USDA Organic” label generally signifies a product is made with relatively minimal synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, and that animals are raised according to certain guidelines. But disputes over the rules, and questions about adherence, may raise doubts about whether the price is justified.

A federal audit in September found the U.S. Department of Agriculture was “unable to provide reasonable assurance” that required documents for imported organic grains were reviewed at domestic ports of entry, among other weaknesses. The Washington Post last year had reported that massive shipments of the imported grains intended mostly for animal feed were wrongly labeled as organic, and also questioned practices by major organic dairy and egg producers.

Some farmers also say practices have strayed from the spirit of the rules about organic food, and are planning new labels.

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