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USDA Scolds National Organic Program for Lax Enforcement

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General recently did an audit of the National Organic Program, which is part of its Agricultural Marketing Services group.

Marketing? Yes, that is the only real thing that the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 set out to accomplish. The AMS group was given $120,000 at the request of organic food lobbyists and permission to create a set of standards they could use in marketing, to create an official seal of what "organic" would mean. The time-limited advisory board they created was re-authorized by USDA in 2014 and at that time, a group of organic food marketing groups petitioned to have themselves removed from USDA oversight

If the recent audit is any indication, they are more interested in helping 80 certifying agents stay in business than protecting organic food purchasers. Not only are they undeserving of more independence, this new look reveals USDA needs to assert more oversight.

Organic equivalent - when it's synthetic but we like it

The audit found that the "process for determining equivalency of organic standards lacked transparency." In plain language that means it is arbitrary. Want to make sure organic bread businesses can keep up with conventional ones? Exempt baking soda as an organic leavening agent even though biological agents (ummm, like yeast) obviously exist. Unless you want to bake bread faster. 

Want to use pheromones for insect control even though that is clearly a synthetic pesticide method? Exempt it.

And there are dozens of other examples.

AMS is relieved a third party took notice

For its part, AMS gladly accepted the findings. They agreed with all nine of them. They know that NOP's National Organic Standards Board is a gaggle of rogue fifth columnists terrifying people about conventional food, which AMS has responsibility for also. Corporate marketing groups like Organic Consumers Association, which directly created US Right To Know, an industry front group, in order to promote their clients, many of whom currently sit or have been on the NOSB exempting themselves from oversight.  

They know that organic food companies are desperate to grow, and if they can't penalize competitors, they have to lower their own prices. 

That means imports, many of them from suspect places.