We oppose the change you have made to the process for exempting otherwise prohibited substances (such as synthetics) in food that carries the "organic" or "made with organic" label.
Since 2005, the rule was that exemptions were made for a five-year period, in order to encourage the development of natural and organic alternatives. The exemptions were required by law to expire, or "sunset," unless they were reinstated by a two-thirds "decisive" majority vote of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) and after public review.
This is no longer the case. Now, the burden of identifying exempted materials for removal is on consumers.
Under the new policy, exempt materials are permitted indefinitely unless a two-thirds majority of the NOSB votes to remove an exempted (synthetic) substance from the list. The new policy allows USDA to relist exemptions for synthetic materials without the recommendation of the independent board and outside of public view, as required by current law.
This is wrong. The change places us on a slippery slope towards an anything-goes policy where non-organic and synthetic substances get a free pass!
Organic Consumers Association
Synthetic ingredients should not be part of our organic standards. USDA Organic is the highest certification standard for pure food, but it's not perfect. One problem is that the 15-member National Organic Standards Board is empowered to make exceptions to the rule that keeps non-organic and synthetic ingredients out of organic food.
So far, the list has been kept small by automatically removing ingredients after 5 years. The process was known as "sunset." Only a two-thirds vote of the NOSB could prevent an ingredient from being taken off the list. The idea behind this process was to foster "continuous improvement." A food processor that wanted to go organic might not be able to get all of the ingredients they need at first, but if they knew they could only use a non-organic or synthetic ingredient for 5 years, they'd have an incentive to make their products more organic over time.
If it weren't for the automatic "sunset" process, hops in organic beer would come from non-organic farms. The soy lecithin in organic process foods would be non-organic, too. Organic tree fruit would always be sprayed with antibiotics. (A past vote of the NOSB scheduled this to end in October 2014.)
This Fall, the USDA National Organic Program decided to make a change to the NOSB process that will reverse this trend by reversing the proportion of votes needed to take a non-organic or synthetic ingredients off of the list. Under the new process, after 5 years, the ingredients will all be automatically re-listed unless there's a two-thirds vote of the NOSB to remove it.
Now, every year, more and more synthetic ingredients will be added to organic, and very few will ever be removed. The casings on organic sausages will always come from non-organic animals that may have been raised on factory farms. We'll never get carrageenan out of organic (it's in almost all non-dairy milks) even though Prevention magazine calls it "the natural ingredient you should ban from your diet." Organic chickens will always be given synthetic methionine (even though requiring outdoor access would eliminate the need for this synthetic nutrient).
This is unacceptable. What makes it even worse is that the USDA made this change without allowing for public comment. The only chance we have of turning this around is by raising a ruckus that makes the National Organic Program fear our wrath.
Please sign the petition.