Make Your Voices Heard by the National Organic Standards Board

September 22, 2009
Category: Uncategorized

The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) has announced a meeting of the board to take place November 3-5 at the Washington Plaza Hotel.  In anticipation of this meeting, the Board will be accepting written comments and requests to present in person at the meeting until October 19.  We would like to encourage all of you to submit comments to the board and, if you can, attend the meeting to voice your concerns about the way the National Organic Program is being run.  This issue is important to everyone who uses food to maintain their health, i.e., everyone on the planet.

Our main concerns with the NOSB concern the lack of consumer representation on the Board and the lax standards that allow manufacturers to sell non-organic food at organic prices. The National Organic Standards Board is supposed to include representatives of organic consumers in its membership but right now, all of the people holding the consumer/public interest advocate positions on the board are actually producers. It’s not that producers can’t be consumers too, but producers can’t represent consumers. A producer is concerned with making the organic standards as lenient as possible in order to tell consumers that the product is organic, whether or not the product actually meets that consumer’s definition of organic (as in “see, its organic, the government says so!”) . A consumer representative on the board would be concerned with ensuring that the organic standards reflect consumer expectations as closely as possible. This conflict, and the lack of consumer representation on the board, are the reason the standards are losing value.

Consumers of organic foods expect certain things. For example, organic beef should be grass-fed. Organic fish should be caught from their natural environment, not raised in an artificial farm and fed a non-indigenous diet that isn’t even entirely made up of organic feed, as the recently enacted NOP regulations allow.  Organic produce should be grown without the use of any substance that requires the donning of a haz-mat suit. And no organic food should be genetically modified. If the national organic standards don’t meet those expectations, they no longer hold any meaning for, and no one will pay extra for any product that uses them. Organic producers can haggle over what non-organic standards make it on the list all they want, consumers will just ignore the USDA label altogether.
To make your voice heard, submit comments to the NOSB using our Action Alert.
To request time for an oral presentation at the meeting, email your request to Executive Director Valerie Frances at valerie.frances@ams.usda.gov.  There will also be an opportunity to sign up at the meeting to speak if there is time available.  Please don’t miss this opportunity to draw attention to the weaknesses of the National Organic Program.  This is an important program worth saving from itself.

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