Food Bytes #14 Nov. 8, 1998
News and Analysis on Genetic Engineering & Factory Farming
by: Ronnie Cummins, Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Action
Special Issue: SOS (Save Organic Standards) Round Two
*** Save Organic Standards Round Two: Nationwide Battle Continues
*** Action Alert: USDA Position Paper Reopens Official Comment Period until
Dec. 14 on National Organic Standards--Urgent Action Needed Now--Send
E-Mails, Faxes, or Letters to USDA
*** Campaign for Food Safety & Organic Watch Form Letter for Official
Comments to the USDA. Keep Factory Farming out of Organic Food Production
and Ensure Consumer Protection Against Organic Fraud!
S.O.S. SAVE ORGANIC STANDARDS! ROUND TWO
NATIONWIDE BATTLE CONTINUES
Earlier this year the U.S. Department of Agriculture proposed national
organic standards that were so weak, they threatened the entire future of
organic foods. In response over 275,000 people wrote the USDA demanding
that these proposed organic rules be changed. The USDA backed off
temporarily, but is expected to issue a new set of highly controversial
regulations early in 1999. The USDA reopened the rulemaking process on
October 28 by publishing an official position paper in the Federal Register.
There are conflicting factions inside the Clinton administration. While
some have heard the thunderous response from consumers, others apparently
are as ready as ever to:
*** lower pre-existing organic standards
*** allow industrial-style factory farming
*** suppress the free speech of the organic community by making it illegal
to set standards higher than the USDA's.
Consumer rebellion has forced the USDA to temporarily back down on the "Big
Three," genetically engineered food, toxic sludge, and nuclear irradiation.
But most organic consumers have dozens of additional objections to
regulations which disregard almost entirely the recommendations of the
National Organic Standards Board. We remain concerned that agribusiness and
its friends inside the USDA will subvert those legitimately seeking change
and once again propose federal regulations which include:
TOTAL GOVERNMENT CONTROL
* The USDA will possess a "legal monopoly" over the word "organic." Only
one organic label, "USDA Organic" will be allowed. The USDA will have the
sole power to appoint members to the National Organic Standards Board,
giving them the ability to weaken standards by "stacking" the NOSB with
appointees sympathetic to industrial agriculture, food irradiation, and
OUTLAWS HIGHER STANDARDS
* The new laws will make it illegal for private, non-governmental organic
certifiers to uphold higher standards than the minimum standards dictated
by the USDA. The rules will also ban "eco-labels," making it illegal to
even imply through labeling or advertising that a product exceeds USDA
* "USDA Organic" will allow inhumane, intensive confinement of farm animals
and a host of other industrial, factory farm production practices
(non-organic feed, toxic inert ingredients in pesticides, antibiotics,
additional synthetic chemicals, etc.).
THREATENS SMALL FARMERS
* The USDA's proposed fees for government certification and/or residue
testing will be prohibitively expensive for small and medium-sized farmers,
certifiers, and producers.
SAVE ORGANIC STANDARDS! IT'S IN OUR HANDS!
This year's mass outcry from organic consumers, producers, and farmers to
the USDA's first proposed organic rules made history--with over 275,000
official comments. The Save Organic Standards (SOS) campaign has now given
birth to Organic Consumers Action--a nationwide grassroots organization
dedicated to protecting the integrity of organic food standards and
promoting sustainable and organic agriculture.
JOIN Organic Consumers Action (OCA) in your local area. If you want to
become a member or a volunteer--or make a donation--call 218-726-1443 or
e-mail us at: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Before the USDA issues its new
proposed organic regulations you will be contacted by an OCA volunteer in
your local area.
VOLUNTEER to become part of an OCA Coordination Team in your area. Help
us mobilize consumers and retailers, carry out public education and events,
and generate media coverage.
ASK your local natural food stores, coops, community restaurants, and
farmers markets to contact the OCA campaign so that we can send them
posters and literature.
SUBSCRIBE to Food Bytes, our free electronic newsletter, by sending an
with the simple message in the body of your email:
If you don't have access to a computer, and want to receive Food Bytes and
our Action Alerts by mail, send us $20 for a year subscription.
Visit our web sites (and links) regularly for updates and background
SEND us a letter, fax, or e-mail which we will forward to your
Congressional Representative, your U.S. Senators, and the White House. Tell
your elected public officials that you want the USDA to preserve strict
organic standards, and that any final rule must not contain any of the
objectionable provisions outlined in this leaflet. Demand especially that
the USDA allow private, non-governmental organic certification bodies to
maintain and publicize stricter organic standards than the minimum
standards proposed by the USDA.
Respond to the USDA's Oct. 28 Official Position Paper--Published in the
Federal Register--on Factory Farming, Antibiotics, and Decertification by
filling out the comment form enclosed below. Fax, e-mail, or mail your
comments on organic standards by December 14, 1998 to the USDA (referring
to Docket Number TM-98-00-7):
e-mail: NOPIssue_Papers@usda.gov also CC a copy to us at:
regular mail: Eileen Stommes, Deputy Administrator, USDA-AMS-TM-NOP, Room
4007-S, AG Stop 0275, P.O. Box 96456, Washington, D.C. 20090-6456
Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Consumers Action
6101 Cliff Estate Rd.
Little Marais, Minnesota 55614
CAMPAIGN for FOOD SAFETY & ORGANIC WATCH ACTION ALERT
USDA Is At It Again! Urgent Action Needed To
Keep Factory Farming Out Of Organic Food Production And Ensure Consumer
Protection Against Organic Fraud!
Early last year, an outraged public flooded the USDA with nearly 280,000
comments opposing the agency's proposal to allow factory farming, sewage
sludge, genetic engineering, and irradiation in organic food production.
Despite this outpouring of public outrage, the USDA is again thinking of
diluting organic standards. We need your input now on three critical
* USDA is still considering loopholes that would allow for the continuous
indoor confinement in organic animal production;
* USDA is considering the use of animal medications including
antibiotics in organic production ; and
* USDA is considering eliminating the ability of organic certifiers
to prevent the sale of mishandled or fraudulent organic products.
Your help is urgently needed. USDA has opened these three questions for
public comment. But we only have until December 14, 1998 to respond.
We need to send a clear message to the USDA:
(1). ORGANIC STANDARDS MUST MANDATE ACCESS TO THE OUTDOORS AND PASTURE FOR
(2). ORGANIC STANDARDS MUST BAN THE USE OF ANTIBIOTICS AND THE MISUSE OF
OTHER ANIMAL MEDICATIONS IN ORGANIC PRODUCTION;
(3). ORGANIC STANDARDS MUST ALLOW CERTIFIERS (ORGANIZATIONS THAT VERIFY
ORGANIC STANDARDS ARE BEING FOLLOWED) TO MAINTAIN THEIR CURRENT RIGHT TO
IMMEDIATELY PREVENT THE SALE OF FRAUDULENT OR MISHANDLED ORGANIC PRODUCTS.
It is important that you again comment and make it very clear that the USDA
cannot ignore the 280,000 public comments it received early this year.
Here's how to make your voice heard. Just respond to the questions below
and follow the instructions for sending or e-mailing your comments.
USDA ISSUE #1. Livestock Confinement in Organic Production Systems. The
National Organic Standards Board (NOSB - the citizens board given legal
authority to provide the Secretary of Agriculture with recommendations) has
made recommendations that livestock must have access to the outdoors. The
USDA is considering policies that would allow loopholes whereby a producer
could avoid providing animals with access to the outdoors . Furthermore,
the USDA may not require "access to the outdoors" to include access to
pasture. Under this scenario, dairy cows on dirt feedlots would be
considered as organic milk production! Should organic livestock have access
to the outdoors including pasture? What is your official comment to the
USDA on this issue?_____________________________________________
USDA ISSUE #2. The Use of Antibiotics and Parasiticides in Organic
Livestock Production. The NOSB has made explicit recommendations to the
USDA concerning the use of animal medications, including a ban on the use
of antibiotics, in organic production. Should organic livestock standards
be based on the NOSB recommendations which prevent loopholes allowing for
the misuse of animal medications? What is your official comment to the USDA
on this issue?
USDA ISSUE # 3. Termination of Certification By Private Certifiers.
Certifiers are the organizations that ensure that an organic food producer
is actually following established organic farming practices. The USDA is
considering eliminating the ability of private certifiers to swiftly
prevent the sale of mishandled or fraudulent organic products. This is
inconsistent with the intent of the Organic Foods Production Act (the law
establishing a national organic food program) and the NOSB's
recommendations. Should private certifiers retain the right to protect the
public by swiftly preventing the sale of fraudulent or mishandled organic
food? What is your official comment to the USDA on this issue?
Please send your comments into USDA Docket #TM-98-00-7. The comment period
ends December 14, 1998, so please contact USDA immediately: Eileen Stommes,
Deputy Administrator, USDA-AMS-TM-NOP, Room 4007-S, AG Stop 0275, P.O. Box
96456, Washington, D.C. 20090-6456; fax 202/690-4632;
e-mail:NOPIssue_Papers@usda.gov and email@example.com.
WARNING! If you visit the USDA's National Organic Program web site or
obtain printed copies of the Federal Register notice, please be aware that
the issue papers posted there contain inaccurate information about the
current NOSB recommendations as well as misleading information about the
legal rights of private certification agencies to suspend or terminate
certification. DO NOT rely on the information in these papers to frame your
Send our Campaign office in Washington a copy of your comments to the USDA
regular mail: Campaign for Food Safety/Organic Watch
310 D Street NE
Washington, D.C. 20002
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