Congress Making Big Changes to Organic Standards; Farmers Raise Alarm

Over the last 20 years or so organic, natural food has become a major segment of the food industry. Consumers are willing to pay more for natural, healthy food items as long as they are free of chemicals and GMO’s. The debate over whether or not GMO’s are safe as food products has been a potent source of controversy.

The pro-GMO side of the argument posits that GMO crops make it possible to grow more crops faster, producing more food and feeding more people at less expense. And they are right. The anti-GMO side of the argument claims that the effect of GMO products on our health, and the health of the ecosystem present both negative knowns and many unknowns. They are also right.

GMOs corporations like Monsanto have used biological products with retrofitted DNA to endure poisons, grow faster, and produce other effects. But the results of many of these products have been the ruination of the crops of farmers who do not use them. These types of problems have manifested in a number of ways, ways we do not have time to go into here- but that have caused these products to be forbidden in many advanced countries.

Whatever side of the GMO debate you fall on, one thing is clear: no one should have to use them or eat them if they do not want to. We should have the choice to decide for ourselves whether or not we will take the risk of eating GMO products. And farmers should be free from the destructive effects of water runoff from other farms that use GMO selective pesticides.

But lawmakers are drawing up legislation that would squeeze organic farmers out of the market completely- taking the choice to seek out non-GMO foods away from everyone. The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) is about to undergo major changes that would all but totally eviscerate the ability of organic farmers to ply their trade and make a living doing so.

The NOSB was created in 1990 in order to supervise the National Organic Program (NOP). The NOSB is made up of 15 members, all of whom work on a voluntary basis. They are organic producers, conservationists, environmentalists, public interest watchdogs, and scientists. The requirements for membership were designed to prevent fraud, abuse, and preserve the public trust. The panel is required to contain a requisite number of members from different disciplines so that a complete and wholesome range of interests and concerns would be represented. The mission of the board is to protect organic farming from the ravages of the aggressive corporate driven agriculture industry.

But now, all of that is set to change unless someone puts the breaks on the legislation that’s coming down the pike.

Congress is proposing two big changes to the NOSB. These changes would weaken the watchdog group, if not destroy it altogether.

The first proposed change would allow employees of organic farming organizations to hold positions on the board. The second change would allow politicians to ignore the authority of the board and to approve pesticides and fertilizers in organic farming as they see fit.

But the bill goes even further. It would require the NOSB to answer to the FDA and the EPA when “[…] when considering whether to allow a pesticide or any other non-organic substance approved by those agencies in organic,” according to OrganicConsumers.org. The bill also gives the Secretary of Agriculture the authority to pressure the NOSB to hasten their review processes concerning industry petitions and permit the utilization of “non-organic post-harvest handling substances.” These non-organic post-harvest handling substances would be used in the production of foods labeled as GMO-free.

To put it simply, the NOSB is being gutted and taken over. But farmers and organics advocacy groups are raising the alarm. The Natural Organic Coalition has given the bill an ‘F’.

The chief exec at Beyond Pesticides said, “There are so many large companies getting involved with organic that do not have the history with organic, and that makes them less than optimal members of the NOSB. If a Del Monte employee replaces a small-scale family farmer, for example, you’re undercutting the integrity of the organic seal.”

Others have pointed out that this is the reason organics employees would be given a place on the board- because it’s the big players who would get their people on the inside. That would mean controlling positions on the NOSB for companies like Del Monte and Monsanto.

~ Health Scams Exposed


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