Seth Martin
Baylen LinnekinBaylen Linnekin wrote the following post Sat, 22 Oct 2016 06:55:00 -0500

The USDA's Synthetic Oversight of Organic Food


Last month, a federal judge in California refused to dismiss a lawsuit challenging U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) actions pertaining to its statutory oversight of organic food.

The case, filed last year by more than a dozen groups, challenges changes to the procedures under which the agency determines whether certain synthetic substances may continue to be used in food the agency permits to be labeled as organic.

Under the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990, which gave the USDA authority over organic-food labeling, the agency maintains a list of synthetic substances that may be used in organic products. Decisions about any substance on the list had been forced to sunset after five years unless two-thirds of the agency's National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) recommended a given substance remain on the list.

But the USDA changed the rules in 2013, delegating much of the decisionmaking power over synthetic substances to a NOSB subcommittee. Since that time, the plaintiffs in the lawsuit argue that this USDA inaction "has allowed more than 20 synthetic substances to continue being used in organic agriculture."

The lawsuit, which alleges "the USDA promulgated the regulation without providing the public the opportunity for notice and comment and acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner[,]" is just the latest in a string of litigation and controversy surrounding the agency's oversight of organic-food labeling.

This wasn't the organic-food labeling system Congress promised us in 1990. I described briefly the history of organic-food labeling in a 2010 article in the Chapman Law Review (citations omitted):

"California passed the nation's first true organic certification law in 1979. Though Oregon's law preceded that of California, Oregon's law was chiefly an anti-fraud measure intended only to classify which producers could advertise their products as 'organic.' California regulations built upon Oregon's and in addition defined the term 'synthetic,' contained public disclosure provisions, and required specific organic labeling language. In 1982, California amended the 1979 regulations, making the state the first to define the term 'organic.' In 1990, California again amended its law, permitting public agencies or private certifiers like [California Certified Organic Farmers] CCOF, today the nation's largest such body, to inspect growers to ensure compliance with the regulations.

"In 1990, Congress enacted the first federal organic standards.... [O]rganic activists in the state and elsewhere criticized the final rule as watered-down and overinclusive."

And, as I describe in my new book, Biting the Hands that Feed Us: How Fewer, Smarter Laws Would Make Our Food System More Sustainable (available for just $3 for Kindle through the end of this month!), the meaning of the term "organic" has been so watered down over the years by the USDA that the term has become confusing and largely meaningless.

Just as is the case with the current lawsuit, I write, controversy often hinges on the agency's inclusion of synthetic ingredients:
Meetings of the USDA's National Organic Standards Board, which establishes limits for which foods may earn the USDA organic seal, have become a "semi-annual ritual of controversy," the Washington Post reported in a 2015 article that focused on the possible addition of synthetic pesticides and additives to the list of substances that would be permissible to use while still earning the agency's organic label.


The organic rules have been the source of other controversies. In 2009, USDA employees urged the agency to ban some synthetic additives from organic baby formula. But they were overruled, reported the Washington Post, "after a USDA program manager was lobbied by the formula makers and overruled her staff." The report said the issue went to the heart of "the integrity of the federal organic label."

I'm not the least bit skeptical of the integrity of organic food. But the USDA's oversight of organic-food invites nothing but skepticism, save perhaps revulsion.

Congress passed the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 in an effort to combat fraud. But the law has proven unable to achieve its goal. Congress should step in and repeal the 1990 law, returning certification to the states. Better still, Congress and states should get out of the business of regulating what is and isn't organic enitrely, and allow bodies like CCOF, Oregon Tilth, and the dozens of other certifying bodies around the country—working with farmers and consumers—to determine what does and doesn't meet their definition of "organic."

#USDA #Organics #Organic #Food #Food Labeling @Anarcho-Vegan+
 from Diaspora
Yes, I know about celiac disease, but I also know how rare it is. Gluten is lower in lysine than some other proteins, but that doesn't make it harmful. Just slightly less nutritious.
 from Diaspora
I'd like to see so-called "breakfast cereal" labeled "Candy you can pour milk on."
Marshall Sutherland
Crave cereal: sugar wrapped in sugar!
Cheerios Protein cereal: For every gram of protein they added, they added multiple grams of sugar!

Seth Martin
  last edited: Sun, 18 Dec 2016 00:19:30 -0600  
Chili powder, chipotle pepper and cumin highlight this party in a pot. This nutritious potato-, quinoa- and bean-based chili is filling and oh so satisfying!


Prep Time: 30 Minutes


1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium-large sweet potato, peeled and diced

1 large red onion, diced

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

½ teaspoon ground chipotle pepper

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 ½ cups vegetable broth

1 15-ounce cans black beans, rinsed

1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes

½ cup dried quinoa

4 teaspoons lime juice

  • Heat a large heavy bottom pot with the oil over medium high heat.
  • Add the sweet potato and onion and cook for about 5 minutes, until the onion if softened.
  • Add the garlic, chili powder, chipotle, cumin and salt and stir to combine.
  • Add the broth, tomatoes, black beans and quinoa and bring the mixture to a boil. Stir everything to combine.
  • Cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer.
  • Cook for 10-15 minutes until the quinoa is fully cooked and the sweet potatoes are soft.
  • Add the lime juice and remove the pot from the heat. Season with salt as needed.
  • Garnish with avocado, cilantro, crema or cheese before serving.
Recipe Credit: Pacific Coast Producers

#Vegetarian #Vegan #Food #Chili #Recipe @Anarcho-Vegan+
This looks amazing, trying it next week!
Thanks, I like your recipes!
Letter Bomber
lol didn't see the time and when I liked it., it removed my like from 3 years ago ;-) still haven't tried this recipe... where does the time go??