The value of organic certification

This note appears in the Organic News section of the current Acres USA magazine, titled “Doubtful Organics.”

After years of pressure from watchdog organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association, the Cornucopia Institute, and others, the USDA has finally acknowledged publicly that it is having problems monitoring and enforcing the National Organic Program. Its recent announcement that half of the accredited organic certifiers under investigation failed the agency’s audits has raised the hackles of organic practitioners and enthusiasts all over the country.

That, following on the heels of two more food safety recalls, this time concerning tainted organic beef and ginger, has elicited some fiery responses, such as the following from the OCA: “We need to stop unscrupulous certifiers and USDA bureaucrats from allowing Chinese importers, U.S. factory farm dairy feedlots, and body care companies from labeling their products as ‘organic’ when in fact they are not. We need a professional, well-funded, and independent NOP Peer Review Board, composed of respected members of the organic community, as required by law, and we need it now!”

A bit further down there is another item, titled “Chinese Ginger Flap.”

The presence of aldicarb pesticide in organic ginger from China was first disclosed by certifiers? Government testers? Organic overseers? No! By a Washington D.C. based television news program reporting on imported organic food products in a local Whole Foods store. Public reaction was so spirited that the station decided to sponsor pesticide-residue testing of two dozen of those products. Only one of the 24 tested positive: the organic ginger from China. The alert was called, and companies began recalling the product.

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