You might recall that we helped organize upwards of 40,000 contacts to the USDA Secretary last fall requesting that he intervene, and overrule the NOP, and allow The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to formally vote and adopt a strong pasture guidance, closing the loopholes, at their last meeting. Secretary Johanns disregarded the feelings of all those farmers and consumers that cared enough to contact him.

The memo below signed by eight consumer/public interest groups criticizes the Secretary for appointing two individuals to represent the interests of consumers on the NOSB. These individuals apparently have no background or credentials to fill those slots (a determination that is part of the law).

The pressure from these groups has had an effect. The individual appointed to the Board from General Mills – to represent consumer interests – has withdrawn her appointment.

Part of the message contained in the 40,000 contacts to the Secretary’s office was the request that he publicly release the names of nominees for the NOSB prior to their appointment. In previous Republican and Democratic administrations this had always been a public process and we, the organic community, had the right to express our feelings, pro and con, regarding the nominees. But the current administration has chosen to conduct this process in secret and we have seen a discernible shift toward “corporate interests” in the makeup of the board.

The Cornucopia Institute will continue to ask our elected officials to respect the nonpartisan and diverse nature of the National Organic Standards Board by appointing the very best nominees and doing so in an open and collaborative process.

This April we will need to again reassemble our forces, the forces who believe in high organic ideals and ethics, to protect organic dairy farming from being run over by the threat from industrial-scale farms.

Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst
The Cornucopia Institute

—————————————————
Secretary Michael Johanns
U.S. Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC
20250
January 20, 2006

Dear Secretary Johanns,

We, the undersigned consumer groups, strongly support the role of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to serve as a multi-stakeholder advisory group to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program as defined by the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990. We strongly support the specific, designated, appointed roles of the NOSB, defined by 7 U.S.C. 6518(b) to include four farmers/growers, two handlers/processors, one retailer, one scientist, “three shall be individuals who represent public interest or consumer interest groups “three environmentalists, and one certifying agent each of whom serve for a five year term. We believe that the interests represented by each group are vital to the authenticity of the NOSB.

For these reasons, we feel that it is important to voice concern and opposition to the recently announced appointments of Katrina Heinze, a manager at General Mills and Daniel Giacomini, a consultant to the organic dairy industry to serve as consumer / public interest group representatives on the NOSB. These individuals do not reflect the specific interests of consumers or the public but rather the interests of the industry. For example, General Mills is a large corporation that has a vested interest in the sales of organic food products, which is in conflict with representing a consumer/public interest position on the NOSB.

We believe that the veracity of the consumer / public interest positions is being compromised by these appointments. These individuals may be appropriate to serve for industry-related slots on the NOSB but it is misleading to have them represent the interests of consumers and the public interest. We believe that these positions need to be filled by those who are working directly on behalf of consumers and the public — not by those who are benefiting financially from the organic industry or from the sales of organic food to consumers.

As strong supporters of a public National Organic Program and the diverse but distinct roles defined by law for the NOSB, we urge you to reconsider these appointments and to take the time to find individuals who’s sole purpose is to represent consumers and has no financial stake in the sale of any one organic product. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

cc: National Organic Program

Sincerely,

Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D.
Senior Scientist and Policy Analyst
Consumers Union

Joe Mendelson
Legal Director
Center for Food Safety

Caroline Smith Dewall
Director of Food Safety
Center for Science in the Public Interest

Carol Tucker Foreman
Director of Food Policy Institute
Consumer Federation of America

Ronnie Cummins
Executive Director
Organic Consumers Association

Wenonah Hunter
Executive Director
Food and Water Watch

Jay Feldman
Executive Director
Beyond Pesticides / NCAMP

Tyson Slocum
Acting Director, Energy Program
Public Citizen

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