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Re: “Marion Nestle: Embrace "Organic," Even If It's Been Co-Opted

Marion Nestle is right. Although there's a perception out there that Big Food and their USDA minions have completely manipulated Organic Standards for their own benefit, that's simply not the case. The creators of the 1990 Organic Food Production Act (OFPA) were remarkably prescient about the possibility of co-option by special interests and they built in inviolable definitions and huge legal hurdles to prevent attempts to alter them. Having attended a number of open and transparent NOSB (National Organic Standards Board) meetings -- the citizens advisory board to the National Organic Program -- I'm grateful at how OFPA really does work and is effectively doing its job. That's not to say ethernal vigilance isn't always required. The Organic Trade Association pulled an end run by attaching a secret rider to an appropriations bill in the previous Republican Congress that changed a provision in OFPA in favor of Big Food processors. The ramifications of this are still being worked out with further legal challenges imminent. This action was a reflection of the extraordinary K Street lobbyist influence on Congress at the time, as much as anything do do with organic. With the new democratic majority now in place, along with increased vigilance, I submit something like this has a much lesser chance of happening now. I agree with Marion, we have to hold on to Organic for all it's worth -- and hold anyone or any group accountable for trying to manipulate its standards. "Beyond Organic" sounds nice but it simply doesn't have the certification verification in the marketplace to protect consumers from fraud. Buying "Local" is extremely important but eaters are saying they don't want pesticides in their food or growth hormones in their meat and milk, no matter how locally they are produced, period. Finally, the organic label has the best chance of overturning unsustainable agribusiness as usual that is dominating our food supply. Let's not forget the avowed purpose of the longtime Organic Movement is to co-opt the entire food system -- big producers as well. Certainly we need to keep the core social justice values intact. "Beyond organic" is unverifiable and essentially meaningless. "Organic and beyond" is the way to get there. Steve Gilman Ruckytucks Farm

Posted by Steve Gilman on 04/17/2007 at 7:26 AM

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