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More on Federal Court Decision to Tighten Up Organic Standards

Court gets tough on organic ingredients

02/02/2005 - Conversion to organic farming to supply a growing demand from
the food industry could prove more difficult after a court ruling issued
this week.

The Court of Appeals in Boston called on Monday for changes to the
regulations that govern the National Organic Program (NOP), pointing out
technical inconsistencies between the national organic standards implemented
in 2002 and the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990.

The areas in which the court thought that changes should be made relate to
multi-ingredient products and dairy herds.

For multi-ingredient products that are labeled as organic, the Organic Food
Production Act of 1990 states that they must contain at least 95 percent
organic ingredients and no synthetic substances. However, regulations have
allowed 38 synthetics, such as baking powder, to be used in these organic
processed foods on a limited basis after strict review.

Moreover, the court said that it would require that food manufacturers
wanting to use agricultural products not available commercially as organic
in multi-ingredient products labeled as organic (up to five percent of such
ingredients is permitted), will have to get the products individually

Finally, the court pointed out that NOP regulations have allowed dairy
herds transitioning to organic production to use 80 percent organic feed for
the first nine months, while the OFPA requires all organic dairy animals to
receive organic feed for 12 months prior to the sale of milk or milk

The USDA has the option to appeal the decision and has issued a notice
demanding that comments regarding the NOP process be submitted by 4 April.

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) said it will work with the USDA to
address these issues.

"OTA is proud that in the two years since national organic standards were
implemented, US organic acreage and production have grown substantially,
organic product sales have increased, and there have been many environmental
benefits as a result,"said Katherine DiMatteo, OTA's executive director.

"The court decision may hamper that growth rate in the short term, but OTA
is optimistic that its members and others in the organic community can pull
together to maintain the momentum for organic agriculture."

The organic food market in the US is estimated to be worth $10.4 billion and
it shows no signs of tiring ­ it grew by 20.4 percent in 2003 ­ and sales
are expected to reach $16.1 million in 2008, according to a recent report
published by Eurominitor.

"Sales of organic food have outpaced those of traditional grocery products
due to consumer perceptions that organic food is better for them," said the
report. According to a 2002 study by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI), 61
percent of consumers felt that organic foods were more beneficial for their
health, 57 percent of them said that they had purchased organic foods in the
past six months or had used them to help maintain their health. This figure
was up from 50 percent in 2001.

The survey also found that fans of organic food believe it offers a
"richer, deeper taste" than conventionally grown produce. Among Americans,
the most frequently purchased organic food types are vegetables, fruit,
cereals/grains, closely followed by yoghurt, UHT milk and dried pasta

National standards for certifying organic foods became effective in the US
on 21 October 2002, establishing a national definition for the term
"organic". Items that meet the new requirements are able to bear a green and
brown "USDA organic" seal that certifies that the food was organically