Monday, May 08, 2006

Food For Thought

Imagine, if you will, a pastoral landscape.  Here we find open green pastures under clear blue skies.  In this landscape a herd of dairy cows is happily grazing, freely pursuing whatever it is that such animals pursue.  The milk produced by these cows is organic, and appropriately labelled as such on its packaging.

Now imagine a large number of cows, tightly penned in.  Their diet does not include the fruits of open grazing.  In fact they are sometimes fed slaughterhouse refuse, antibiotics and engineered grains.  And yet the milk produced by this animals is sometimes also called organic.  How can that be?

The answer can be summed up in two words: big business.  Big business has noticed that while sales of "conventional" food products have shown limited growth, sales of organic foods have been seeing large and steady increases over the past few years.  And big business wants a piece of the action.

While most producers endeavor to provide products that can honestly be called organic, two large companies are playing by a different set of rules.


Two of the largest organic dairy companies in the nation, Horizon Organic (a subsidiary of Dean Foods), a supplier to Wal-Mart and many health food stores; and Aurora Organic, a supplier of private brand name organic milk to Costco, Safeway, Giant, Wild Oats and others, are purchasing the majority of their milk from feedlot dairies where the cows have little or no access to pasture.  Together, these corporations control up to 65% of the organic dairy market.

The USDA has proposed revisions to the National Organic Program.  Public comment is being sought.  The deadline is June 12, 2006.  The revisions are here.

Here's one telling section:

The proposed rule revises the NOP regulations to clarify that non-organically produced products listed in section 205.606 of the regulations may be used as ingredients in or on processed products labeled as "organic" or "made with" organic ingredients, only when such organic products are not commercially available.

I would question why there would be any use of such non-organic ingredients at all.  Would other manufacturers use inferior components if necessary ones were not available?    

You can take action here or here.

I would urge you to do so

A further food-related issue is found in food labelling legislation, previously passed by the House and currently before the Senate.  The National Uniformity for Food Act will do away with the ability of states to set their own more stringent guidelines.  Instead, federal legislation will supercede and roll back labelling standards.  Under the legislation, states will be required to apply to the federal government for permission to set more stringent labelling.


You may take action here.

The Senate needs to hear from you.



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