Organic View - An e-mail publication of the Organic Consumers Association
v. 1, n. 2

1. Next Steps for Organic
2. EPA Muzzles Benefits of Organic
3. Canada Rejects rBGH - Why Not U.S.?
4. Organic Answers: What is the NOSB?
5. Organic Facts

1. Next Steps for Organic

Given the USDA's poor track record on organic food, consumers and those in the production and sale of
organic food are taking a two-track strategy to ensure strong organic standards:

1) OCA is dedicated to reaching out and organizing all 275,000 people who commented on the first rule. If
the next USDA rule serves to undermine the integrity of organic food, OCA will mobilize its members and
work with the organic community to respond quickly in submitting comments.

2) In the event that comments are ignored, OCA and the Center for Food Safety will work with others in the
organic community to develop our own organic standards and labels. These standards would use the
recommendations of the National Organic Standards Board (see story 4 for more on the NOSB) and current
strong international organic standards.

These alternative rules will serve dual purposes. Under the 1990 Organic Food Production Act, the USDA
was mandated to take the NOSB's recommendations and turn them into rules. The USDA chose to ignore
much of the NOSB's recommendations in their first proposed rule. These alternative rules should pressure
the USDA to comply with the 1990 Act.

The other advantage of creating alternative rules is that it provides some insurance for organic consumers. If
the USDA rules are unacceptable, the alternative rules could conceivably be implemented by the organic
industry - although that process would undoubtedly be challenged by the USDA and require a legal battle.

This two-track strategy will likely evolve in the coming months. Organic View will follow the process closely
as events occur.

2. EPA Muzzles Benefits of Organic

In February 1998, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it would soon be releasing a
brochure for supermarket shoppers outlining precautions regarding "Pesticides on Food." Besides advice on
peeling, washing, scrubbing, and cooking fruits and vegetables, the EPA brochure would advise consumers
concerned about pesticides to consider purchasing organically-grown fruits, vegetables, and other foods.

This advice to "buy organic" was immediately attacked by agribusiness lobbyists as they worked behind
the scenes to knock any mention of organic out of the EPA brochure. Dennis Stolte of the American Farm
Bureau told the New York Times, "Our biggest concern is that there is an implication that organic foods are
somehow safer than conventional foods, which is absolutely false."

In August 1998, "seven food, farm and pesticide industry groups called on the Clinton Administration to
eliminate any references to organic foods and to make other changes," according to an article written by
John Cushman of the New York Times.

Last month, the EPA released the amended brochure on pesticides and foods, de-emphasizing health
risks, and barely mentioning (and clearly not endorsing) consuming organically grown foods to reduce
exposure to chemicals.

That brochure can now be found at:

The EPA's decision to back down on organic in their brochure represents the power of the agribusiness
trade associations - the same associations who vocally supported the USDA's first organic proposal. These
trade associations represent hundreds of billions of dollars in capital assets, annual sales, and advertising
revenue (not to mention millions of dollars in annual political contributions to both major political parties):
the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA), the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), the
American Farm Bureau, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO).

The power and influence of these trade associations is astonishing. According to a recent analysis by the
Center for Public Integrity, from 1988 to 1995 more than 65 bills were introduced in Congress to tighten
pesticide regulations - none passed.

Organic food poses a direct threat to these trade associations, particularly when it comes to health and
safety issues. As Regina Hildwine of the National Food Processors Association told the press during the
debate over organic standards in 1998, "Organic does not mean safer. Organic does not mean healthier."

Many believe that organic food is safer because it has less pesticide residues - which have become a "hot
button" issue for millions of parents and consumers. In a major sampling of supermarket produce published
in January 1998, Consumer Reports found that conventional produce was more than three times as likely to
contain residues of toxic pesticides than organic produce (pesticide residues on organic produce most
often result from chemical sprays drifting from nearby conventional farms). Consumer Reports points out
"tests of organic, green-labeled, and conventional unlabeled produce found that organic foods had
consistently minimal or non-existent pesticide residue... Buying organic food promotes farming practices
that really are more sustainable and better for the environment--less likely to degrade soil, impair
ecosystems, foul drinking water, or poison farmworkers."

A panel convened by the National Academy of Sciences in 1993 reported that federal allowances for
pesticide residues were too lenient, and that infants and children could be harmed by current pesticide
residue levels that the government considers "legal." A highly-publicized Jan. 1998 study by the
Environmental Working Group (EWG) found that millions of American children under five years old are at
risk every year from ingesting dangerous levels of at least 13 different neurotoxic organophosphate (OP)
pesticide residues in their apples, apple sauce, apple juice, peaches, popcorn, corn chips, and other foods.

In another study of eight different non-organic baby foods produced by Gerber, Heinz, and Beech-Nut, the
EWG found residues of 16 different pesticides--including probable human carcinogens, neurotoxins,
endocrine disrupters, and oral toxicity #1 chemicals, the most toxic designation.

A new EWG web site allows parents to fill a grocery cart with typical items that a preschooler might eat
during a day and then calculate the likely amount of pesticide residue consumed. The address is

To express your displeasure at the EPA's decision to exclude the attributes of organic food in its pesticide
brochure, send EPA chief Carol Browner an e-mail at:

3. Canada Rejects BGH - Why Not U.S.?

On January 14, Canada's Health Department rejected the approval of the Bovine Growth Hormone - a drug
injected into cattle to increase milk production. Health Canada rejected rBGH on animal health grounds,
citing evidence that treated animals have a 25% higher rate of udder infections, an 18% higher rate of
infertility, and a 50% increase in lameness. The approval process was full of controversy, with Canadian
government officials accusing rBGH-maker Monsanto of trying to bribe them with offers of $1 to $2 million.
More information about Health Canada's decision on rBGH can be found at:

The decision by Health Canada comes as a huge blow to Monsanto - who has been trying to get rBGH
approved in Canada since 1990. The company says it intends to appeal the Health Canada decision.

Information uncovered by Health Canada has raised questions about the safety of using rBGH in the US -
where it has been approved since late 1993. While looking at test data on rBGH, Health Canada
researchers found that between 20 and 30 percent of rats administered rBGH were developing distinct
immulogical reactions. Cysts were forming in the thyroid of some male rats and had infiltrated the prostate.
The FDA claims they have only seen summaries of these studies, and never reviewed the actual studies.

In response, the Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition with the FDA in December, calling for the
agency to reverse its approval of rBGH and have it pulled from the market. If the FDA does not remove
rBGH from the market, the Center plans to sue the agency.

"It is clear that the FDA put the interest of Monsanto above its duty to protect the health of the American
consumer when it approved rBGH five years ago," says Andrew Kimbrell, the Center's executive director.

Human health concerns involving rBGH include increased exposure to antibiotics in milk - cows injected
with rBGH have higher rates of udder infections which are treated by antibiotics. Additional concerns involve
the insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1), which appears in elevated levels in rBGH-milk and has been linked to
higher rates of cancer. As the American Medical Association said in a statement recently, "The science on
the effects of oral ingestion of IGF-1 is incomplete."

Since rBGH was first allowed on the market in 1994, there has been a virtual explosion in sales of organic
milk. Sales of organic milk nearly doubled to almost $31 million in 1997, from about $16 million in 1996,
according to dairy industry figures. The remarkable market growth of organic milk, which can now be found
in most major supermarkets, can be attributed almost entirely to consumers' desire to avoid rBGH-milk.

98P-1194, and express your support for the Center's lawsuit calling for the removal of rBGH from the market
given the human and animal health concerns cited above. You can mail your comments to: FDA Dockets
Management Branch, Rm. 1-23, 12420 Parklawn Drive, Rockville, MD 20857.

4. Organic Answers: What is the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)?

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is a 15-member, non-governmental, federal advisory
committee created by the Secretary of Agriculture under the Organic Food Production Act ("OFPA") and
the Federal Advisory Committee Act ("FACA"). By law the NOSB's makeup is a diverse constituency
representing organic farming operations (4 people), organic handling operations (2), retail establishments
with significant trade in organic product (1), experts in environmental protection and resource conservation
(3), public interest or consumer interest groups (3), scientific experts in toxicology, ecology or biochemistry
(1) and an organic certifying agent (1).

The USDA appoints all NOSB members, although the public is allowed to make recommendations for
appointments. NOSB members serve staggered five-year terms.

In general, the NOSB is designed to be a public voice concerning the regulation of organic food. It is
responsible for advising the Secretary of Agriculture on implementing our national organic food laws.
Specifically, the Board is responsible for evaluating substances for inclusion on the National List of allowed
(or prohibited) synthetic substances.

Unfortunately, in the first proposed national organic rule the USDA ignored most of the NOSB's
recommendations. For example, the proposed rule allowed for genetically engineered foods even though the
NOSB specifically stated that they should not be allowed in organic.

The NOSB meets between two to four times a year to develop recommendations on a number of issues
concerning organic food. The meetings are open to the public and the Board often publishes working papers
that are available for public comment. In upcoming issues of Organic View we will provide you with an
overview of some of the issues currently being discussed at the NOSB meetings.

In the meantime, we urge you to participate in the NOSB process by investigating its website.

Have questions about organic food, organic farming, or the federal organic rule? Send us an e-mail
( and we'll try to answer your question in Organic View.

5. Organic Facts

According to Datamonitor, a financial service provider, the organic market grew 26 percent to $4.5 billion in
1997. Sales of organic food likely exceeded $5 billion in 1998. Supermarket sales of organic foods have
grown more than 40 percent each year over the past five years. Datamonitor believes that organics are the
"third wave" in mainstream health foods, now that "low and light" have plateaued and nutraceuticals have
health claim restrictions.