Synthetic Nutrients in Organic Foods?
USDA seeks public comment
Comments due December 26, 2012
December 04, 2012
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is seeking public comment on a rule that would continue its policy of allowing the indiscriminate and illegal addition of synthetic nutrients to organic foods.
Nutrients occur naturally in foods, and many are essential for good health. But organic consumers expect that any added nutrients in processed foods be derived from natural or organic sources rather than synthetic versions that are mass-produced in laboratories and factories by chemical corporations, often using hazardous petrochemical solvents.
If you agree that organic foods should be free from unnecessary synthetic ingredients, as the federal organic regulations require, please make your voice heard.
Make your voice heard. Full instructions for commenting to the USDA: Instructions
In the past six months, organic stakeholders won a string of victories at the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meetings, which upheld organic integrity and rejected corporate petitions for eight synthetic nutrients.
Rather than respect the organic law and accept the NOSB recommendation and the will of the organic community, corporate food manufacturers like Nestle have refused to remove the synthetic nutrients from organic foods, and have turned instead to the USDA for help.
Sadly, the USDA seems all too eager to help them out. Despite a 2011 public apology by USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan for the previous administration’s creation of a loophole in the organic standards, which led to the indiscriminate and illegal addition of synthetic nutrients to organic foods, the USDA is now unwilling to back this apology with concrete action, and is once again catering to corporate interests.
The USDA initially proposed closing the loophole in January 2012, and both the organic community and corporate food manufacturers supported their proposed rule. But that was before the NOSB voted on the petitions for synthetic nutrients. Food manufacturers, such as Nestle, likely supported the initial proposed rule because they expected that the NOSB would approve the synthetic nutrients that they are currently putting in organic food (in the past, the NOSB has all too often sided with corporate lobbyists in a desire to “grow” the organic market).
When the NOSB rejected Nestle’s and other corporate petitions, the USDA tabled its initial proposed rule and came out with a weakened rule that keeps the loophole and the illegal policy on nutrients in place.
The organic community must make clear that synthetic nutrients should be individually reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board, and if approved, should be individually listed on the National List of allowed materials. All loopholes and incorrect interpretations of the organic standards must end now.
The NOSB, after considering extensive public comment, has made clear that synthetic nutrients have no place in organic foods. The USDA must take immediate enforcement against any and all synthetic nutrients that are not on the National List of allowed materials and that have been rejected by the National Organic Standards Board.
Not strictly following the law passed by Congress to regulate organics (the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990), in this regard, will likely lead to a messy and expensive legal battle for both the USDA (US citizens) and The Cornucopia Institute. Together, we must demand that the spirit and letter of the law be followed.
For the full story and complete background, please read Cornucopia’s position paper.