USDA Answers Outcry, Alters Organic Proposal


The U.S. Department of Agriculture no doubt got what it wanted. In December, it proposed national organic standards, but curiously left out mention of the use of irradiation, genetically altered crops and sludge (treated sewage) as fertilizer, which agribusiness favors. But it invited public comment, going so far as to hold meetings around the country, probably knowing full well Americans wouldn’t like the omissions one bit.

The ploy worked. A record 200,000 comments poured in, overwhelmingly opposing the practices in question for use on organic foods. That gave the agency the public backing it needed to oppose commercial interests. In early May, it announced its intention to make “fundamental revisions” to the proposal to disallow these practices on foods labeled as organic, thus disappointing agribusinesses wishing to enter the increasingly lucrative organic market. Small organic farmers, organic organizations and EN, however, are delighted.

The USDA maintains that all three controversial practices?biotechnology, irradiation and sludge as fertilizer?are safe, but acknowledges they have no place in organic foods.

The revised proposal will be issued later this year, and again be open to public comment. A final ruling, backed by federal law, will then follow. To view the revisions, once complete, visit the USDA’s web site at http://www.usda.gov/.

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