Faking ‘O’s: USDA Allows Agribusiness to Bend the Rules to be Called ‘Organic’

Faking an “O”.

Right now, the biotech and food companies are telling us that, if we want to make sure we aren’t eating GMOs, we should simply buy organic foods.

However, a recent report released by the Cornicopia Institute (CI),  a Wisconsin-based not-for-profit policy research organization, suggests that the group that oversees  food that meet the high standards to be called “organic” has been taken over by special interests.

National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)  is a Federal Advisory Committee comprised of members of the organic community. They are  appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture.   The NOSB has been around since 1990 when Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act.  The NOSB is supposed to make sure that organic food is safe for human consumption and does not harm the environment, and to make sure that the rules are followed.  So who  supposedly sits on this board?

Four farmers/growers

Three environmentalists/resource conservationists

Three consumer/public interest advocates

Two handlers/processors

One retailer

One scientist (toxicology, ecology, or biochemistry)

One USDA accredited certifying agent

 The NOSB also makes recommendations on a wide variety of purview, including organic pet food standards and organic inspector qualifications. NOSB Committees first publish proposals with request for public comments. During meetings, the NOSB listens to public comments, discusses their agenda items, and then votes in a public forum. The NOSB then submits their final recommendations to the USDA.

This sounds pretty standard as far as committees go but once again Agribusiness has managed to infiltrate the organic industry and is changing the rules to suit their needs, which of course is their bottom line.

Back in May 2012  the  (CI) , released a document called  Organic Watergate.  The document asserts that the majority of the NOSB  consists of employees from  multi-nationals corporations, not those who meet the standards to be called organic.

The CI points out that the USDA is “stacked [with] board [members from] agribusiness” which is not only illegal, but has been “business as usual” for the last three presidential administrations.

“This is the proverbial fox watching the organic chicken coop,” says Mark A. Kastel, co-director of The Cornucopia Institute.

The alarm was sounded when the board pushed to allow carrageenan, as an ingredient in certain organic foods. It is already banned around the world because it is believed to be a carcinogen.  Carrageenan is a gum that comes from red seaweed plants. Its used to thicken and improve the texture of foods, such as ice cream, yogurt, and soy products to name a few.  Dr. Joanne Tobacman, a physician-scientist at the University of Iowa, reviewed 45  experiments on the effects of rats and carrageenan.  Studies showed that carrageenan caused serious intestinal problems in the rats.  Tobacman believes there is strong evidence that links carrageenan and colon cancer, but the FDA disagrees so carageenan remains on the market.

Fast forward to July 2012;  The Office of the Inspector General (OIG), at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA),  found only one instance of wrongdoing: a woman by the name of Wendy Fulwider, who got a seat on the board, was  full-time employee of the CROPP Cooperative, a $750 million business enterprise.  Fulwider told the NOSB at their May meeting that her farm was about to transition to organic but wasn’t at the time of her appointment.   These appointments are only for actual organic farmers — not for those who are merely thinking about going organic. Her appointment is a clear violation of the rules. Meanwhile those organic farmers who were turned down to sit on the NOSB  are putting together a lawsuit to oust the illegally appointed imposters .


As for a full on investigation that CI requested, forget it. The  USDA doesn’t think its worth their time. They didn’t even look the through the Organic Watergate report. They just did a little snooping around so they could claim to have investigated the allegations made by CI.  Cornucopia issued a statement that they will call for a judicial review  to resolve the illegal composition of the NOSB.  Meanwhile Cornucopia put together a guide that you can review to avoid buying carageenan  http://www.cornucopia.org/shopping-guide-to-avoiding-organic-foods-with-carrageenan/

About Inge

Cancer survivor. Healthy organic food coach. Public speaker. If you have a story you want told, contact me at iscott.orangejuiceblog@gmail.com/