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H
ealthy News Service: What are the implications of the Ag Appropriations bill on organic labeling?
 

What are the implications of the Ag Appropriations bill on organic labeling?

by Organic Consumers Association - 11/7/2005

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It took 10 years for 38 synthetic substances to make their way into products labeled “USDA Organic”, when the Ag Approps amendments kick in, that number could leap to over 500 with the stroke of the Secretary’s pen.

Below are the parts of the Organic Food Production Act relating to organic labeling with the new amendments in bold.

It is products that currently are labeled “USDA Organic” that are affected. Under USDA National Organic Program regulations (below, after the code), these products were only required to contain 95% organic ingredients and they could contain certain synthetic ingredients on the National List. In Harvey, a recent 1st Circuit case, the court ruled that these regulations would have to be changed to bring them into compliance with the OFPA which specifically forbade anyone to “add any synthetic ingredient during the processing or any postharvest handling of the product” and, for the handling of organic agricultural products, required each National List item be one that is “non-synthetic but is not organically produced.”

Now, with the new Ag Approps changes to the OFPA, the law forbids one to “add any synthetic ingredient NOT APPEARING ON THE NATIONAL LIST during the processing or any postharvest handling of the product” and it strikes the requirement for the handling of organic agricultural products that a National List item be one that is “non-synthetic but is not organically produced.” In this respect, the changes restore the pre-Harvey status quo (the 38 synthetic ingredients).

However, there is one way in which the new OFPA amendments on synthetics go far beyond “pre-Harvey”:

(1) They radically alter the way synthetic ingredients are added to the List.

For the first time, the Secretary will have the power to expedite petitions for access to the list of substances that are commercially unavailable in organic form. Right now there are 38 synthetic substances on the National List that have been carefully reviewed and approved by the National Organic Standards Board over the past ten years. Eight more synthetic substances have been reviewed and approved by the NOSB and are awaiting USDA authority to be placed on the National List. The industry has requested that 517 more synthetic substances be approved. In all likelihood, this new power granted to the Secretary will be the opening of the floodgate to these hundreds of synthetic ingredients being allowed in products labeled “USDA Organic.”

7 U.S.C.A. § 6510(a)(1)


(a) In general
For a handling operation to be certified under this chapter, each person on such handling operation shall not, with respect to any agricultural product covered by this chapter--
(1) add any synthetic ingredient NOT APPEARING ON THE NATIONAL LIST during the processing or any postharvest handling of the product;


7 U.S.C.A. § 6517(c)(1)(B)


(c) Guidelines for prohibitions or exemptions

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Provided by Organic Consumers Association on 11/7/2005

 
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