Q & A Library
Undermining the Organic Standards?
I understand that the organic standards have been changed and that so-called organic foods may really not be organic. What's the story?
Answer (Published 6/8/2004)
The story is a bit complex but appears to have a happy ending – for the time being. Here’s what happened: last month (May 2004) the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued "clarifications" of some regulations governing production of organic foods. These new guidelines would have permitted organic farmers to treat dairy cows with certain antibiotics and other drugs, use pesticides that might contain toxic ingredients, and feed farm animals with non-organic fish meal. Can you believe this?
On May 26, following criticism from consumer and organic groups that the new guidelines weakened the standards by which foods can be certified as organic, Agriculture Secretary Ann Venemen rescinded them. Below, a brief rundown of what they were and why they were so controversial:
In rescinding the guidelines, Secretary Veneman said that the USDA would work with officials from the Organic Standards Board (an advisory council) to clarify the organic standards. Stay tuned. It looks as if consumers will have to be constantly vigilant to keep our government from weakening or gutting the organic standards act.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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