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 National Organic Standards Board Chair Jim Riddle Speaks Out Against the OTA Sneak Attack on Organic Standards in Congress  
by Organic Consumers Association - 10/24/2005
To members of the organic community and the House-Senate Conference Committee,

I have farmed organically since 1980 and been an organic inspector since 1986. In 1991, I was elected founding chair of the Independent Organic Inspectors Association (IOIA). I helped develop standardized organic certification and inspection templates and training materials that are used worldwide today. Since 1991, I have served on Minnesota’s organic advisory board, where we originated the organic certification cost share program and helped institute organic transition incentives. In 1997, I took the lead in writing detailed comments responding to USDA’s disastrous first Proposed Rule. I have been a member of the Organic Trade Association for over 10 years. I co-authored OTA’s American Organic Standards in 1999, and compiled OTA’s comments on the second Proposed Rule. I have served on the National Organic Standards Board since 2001, developing the NOSB’s principles of organic production and handling, compatibility criteria, standardized Board procedures, and numerous recommendations to maintain, clarify, and strengthen our organic standards. My roots in the organic community run deep.

The comments I offer here reflect my own opinions, and not those of the NOSB, USDA, OTA, or IOIA.

I am very concerned that proposals submitted to Congress by some OTA members and major food manufacturers to amend the Organic Foods Production Act in response to the Court’s ruling in Harvey v. Johanns would weaken existing standards and undermine the authority of the NOSB.

OTA claims that their proposed OFPA changes are mere “clarifications” that restore the status quo. A close analysis reveals that the changes are substantive and do not restore the status quo. Below is an analysis of the status quo, OTA’s proposed changes, and my positions on amendments to OFPA related to these issues. The topics are grouped in three areas: synthetic substances allowed in the processing of organic products; commercial availability of organic agricultural ingredients; and dairy herd conversion.

Synthetic Substances

Status Quo – The regulation allows the use of synthetic substances “used in or on” processed organic foods only after the substances have been recommended by the NOSB and placed on the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. 38 synthetic substances are currently allowed in the processing of organic foods. The regulation contains specific criteria for the evaluation of synthetic substances used in processing, but the Court ordered removal of the criteria, since synthetic substances will no longer be allowed for the processing of “organic” food under the Court’s ruling. Non-compliant products can continue to enter the stream of commerce until June 9, 2007.

OTA Proposal – OTA has introduced language that would allow the use of synthetic “ingredients” in the processing of organic food. OTA’s language calls for deletion of an OFPA section containing the word “substances” and places the synthetic allowance after the word “ingredients.” If OTA’s language is adopted, synthetic substances such as processing aids and food contact substances would be allowed with no restrictions and no review by the NOSB. In addition, OTA has not called for placement of the vacated evaluation criteria in the statute.

My Position – If OFPA is to be amended to allow the continued use of a limited number of synthetic substances, the statute must require review of all substances used in or on processed organic products. Language that only requires the review of “ingredients” must be rejected. The vacated evaluation criteria currently in the regulation must be retained and transferred to OFPA, comparable to the evaluation criteria in OFPA used by the NOSB to assess crop and livestock materials. As with crops and livestock, specific categories of allowed synthetic processing substances need to be established, either in OFPA or through notice and comment rulemaking.

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Provided by Organic Consumers Association on 10/24/2005
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