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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Ronnie Cummins 218-349-3836
May 26, 2004 Craig Minowa 877-264-4440

ORGANIC INDUSTRY AND CONSUMERS CELEBRATE USDA REVERSAL ON NON-FOOD NATIONAL ORGANIC STANDARDS

WASHINGTON, DC - In an unexpected move, Anne Veneman, the Secretary of Agriculture announced today that the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA) has decided to rescind directives made in April of 2004 that weakened organic standards and threw the organic industry into a tailspin.

Over the past few weeks America's organic standards had once again come under heavy attack. First the USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) announced on April 14 that they would no longer monitor or police "organic" labels on non-food products, literally opening the door for unscrupulous companies to put bogus organic labels on products such as fish, body care products, pet foods, fertilizer, and clothing. Then on April 28 the Feds shocked everyone by announcing that pesticides, animal drugs, growth hormones, antibiotics, and tainted fishmeal would be allowed on organic farms.

All of these announcements came as a shock to the organic industry and consumers. By law, these types of sweeping regulatory changes are required to undergo a period of public comment before being enacted.
Although the USDA never followed its legal duties of soliciting public comment, once the activist community had spread the word about the weakened standards, consumers, by the thousands, let their voices be heard.

In response to the new directives, the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a national consumer watchdog group, immediately launched a campaign to pressure the USDA into reversing its controversial directives. Within two days, over 5,000 petition signatures had been gathered and a landslide of faxes, emails and phone calls hit the USDA and NOP offices. According to Ronnie Cummins, Executive Director of the OCA, "Two days after we sentour first email action alert out, their were so many consumers responding to it, the USDA contacted us and told us to tell our supporters to stop calling their offices."

While the OCA mobilized its over half million supporters, organic businesses were gearing up for a lawsuit against the USDA. Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a leading manufacturer of organic and natural body care products, released a letter to the Organic Trade Association saying that it would pay for all legal costs associated with a lawsuit against the USDA. David Bronner, President of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps said, "Non-food products can support organic agriculture and processing just as much as organic food products do. Taking away the opportunity to certify non-food products under the NOP would have been an enormous disincentive to non-food industries to source from and support organic agriculture."

Secretary Veneman's announcement today effectively rescinded all four of the said National Organic Program announcements, and once again opens dialogue between federal agencies, consumers, and the organic industry in the ongoing development of organic standards for non-food products.

The OCA is a grassroots nonprofit organization concerned with food safety, organic farming, sustainable agriculture, fair trade and genetic engineering.

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ORGANIC CONSUMERS ASSOCIATION · 6101 CLIFF ESTATE ROAD · LITTLE MARAIS, MN 55614 USA
Telephone: 218-226-4164 · Fax: 218-353-7652· email: info@organicconsumers.org; www.organicconsumers.org