COMMENTARY

Harvey v. Veneman article fails to uncover ulterior motives
The only reason industry leaders would want to change the spirit and letter of the OFPA would be to deceive the public, one New Farm reader charges. 

May 12, 2005

Editor’s NOTE:

We serve a diverse audience of readers engaged in regenerative, organic and sustainable agriculture at many levels for many reasons. We want to hear from you about the issues that are important to your life and work, and your vision for agriculture that builds a strong future.

We run selected comments from readers in this space. Please tell us who you are, with name, address and phone number for verification. Sending correspondence to us conveys a right to us to publish it as is, or in a form edited for length and/or style. Opinions expressed in this space do not necessarily represent the perspective of The New Farm® or The Rodale Institute®.

If you have something important to say about agriculture in a sustainable global food system, please -- speak to us.

NF


Your Harvey suit article does not even scratch the surface of the misleading framing by the likes of [Organic Valley CEO] George Siemon. The changes mandated by the appeals court would not eliminate any products, only the way in which they must be labeled “organic” or “made from organic.” This was wisely adopted in the law to avoid the debate now going on about synthetics as ingredients in food products labeled “organic.” The OFPA [Organic Food Production Act] clearly avoided the argument by prohibiting or exempting synthetic ingredients, depending on how a product is labeled.

Since it is permitted to disclose a “percentage organic” on the main display panel, it is clearly not a burden to manufacturers to not be able to call every one of their products “organic” and leaves properly the decision of whether to buy with the individual consumer, who can read the label, not be deceived (even if in a hurry) and avoids the quagmire—for the NOSB [National Organic Standards Board]—of listing synthetics. This would be the same quagmire for congress if the list were to be generated in a revised statute! There would be an "oops, we forgot one" every moment going forward.

Only those who wish to deceive customers would want it any other way. Congress did not intend, nor should they have intended, to force the NOSB to revisit the FDA’s G.R.A.S. [Generally Recognized as Safe] list. So they very wisely wrote the statute to avoid it. To frame the issue—as the Organic Trade Association wants to—as "What's wrong with baking soda?" is fundamentally dishonest and violating the most basic tenets of the organic community: transparency and precautionary.

With respect to the "new herd clause” (80/20 for dairy), in framing the issue as crucial for "new organic farmers” evasion of fundamentals also flows. Since all milk is pooled, the pool no longer meets the standard, thus hurting the preexisting organic members of the pool and reducing the fair price of milk for these farmers—all on the altar of growth for a mega-processor, whether corporate or cooperative—and thereby preventing all existing organic farmers from enjoying the benefits of rising demand. Supporting growth should not come at the expense of lowered standards and pool quality but from incentives derived from other programs, be they government, volunteer or private!

John Clark
Michigan