Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Congress Feels Heat from Consumers Over 'Sneak Attack' on Organic Standards by Food Processors & Grocery Chains

WASHINGTON, Oct. 12 /U.S. Newswire/ -- As Congress finalizes the 2006 Agricultural Appropriations bill in the House/Senate Conference Committee, more than a quarter million consumers have mobilized in the last three weeks from a broad cross section of the U.S. to stop an industry-sponsored "Sneak Attack" on Organic Standards contained in a "rider" to the bill.

Members of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) have bombarded Congress with over 150,000 letters and 30,000 phone calls, heading off passage of the "Sneak Attack" rider in the U.S. Senate.

Members of other groups including Citizens for Health, Health Freedom, Consumers Union, Public Citizen, the National Cooperative Grocer Association, and the Center for Food Safety have cumulatively generated more than 110,000 additional letters to congress against the industry rider.

The Sneak Attack rider would lower organic standards by allowing Bush administration appointees in the USDA National Organic Program to approve hundreds of synthetic substances and processing aids in organic products.

Even worse, these proposed regulatory changes would reduce future public discussion and input and undermine the National Organic Standards Board's (NOSB) traditional lead jurisdiction in monitoring standards and controlling what substances are allowed on the "National List" of approved ingredients.

What this means, in blunt terms is that USDA bureaucrats and industry lobbyists, not consumers, would have near total control over what can go into processed organic foods and products.

The backlash is also growing among many retailers, co-ops and some makers of organic foods. Eden Foods, a longtime organic industry brand leader and processor issued a statement on October 3 condemning the "Sneak Attack." Since then 200 businesses have joined OCA's campaign to Save Organic Standards. "Eden Foods strongly objects," said Eden Chairman and President Michael Potter.

"As the oldest and a founding member of the organic foods industry that has never employed shortcuts, we believe that the fast, cheap, and easy route is counter productive in organic food production."

A copy of the Eden Foods statement along with OCA's petition for businesses may be found online at http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/edenfoods100305.cfm.

Newly emerging organic industry giants such as Kraft, Dole, Dean Foods/Horizon, Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats, Aurora, Smucker, and General Mills seek a streamlined "expedited" approach to modifying organic standards and inclusion of synthetic substances in processed organic foods in order to meet the booming public demand for organics, now a $15 billion industry.

"The Organic Trade Association's credibility on organic standards has been severely tarnished by their 'Sneak Attack rider' and new cozy relationship with Kraft and other food giants who apparently care more about their bottom line than they do about strict public review and maintaining strict organic standards.

These American food giants, with freshly painted organic facades, appear to be looking for an easy way to brand their products as 'organic' when in fact the rider they support would seriously undermine current organic standards," stated Ronnie Cummins, co-founder and National Director of the OCA. "After 35 years of hard work, the U.S. organic community has built up a multi-billion dollar alternative to industrial agriculture, based upon strict organic standards and organic community control over modification to these standards.

For the sake of the earth and the health of all Americans, we must stop this sneak attack by industry and preserve strict organic standards."

More information may be found at http://www.organicconsumers.org

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