May has been a busy month for Peter Whoriskey, an investigative reporter at the Washington Post. In two weeks’ time, he published findings from two different cases of organic fraud. One on domestic grounds; the other in the import arena.
The May 1st article, Why your ‘organic’ milk may not be organic (photo credit: Washington Post/Jorge Ribas) unearthed the lack of compliance by Aurora Organic Dairy in Greenly, CO. Aurora, with over 15,000 cows, provides milk to big-box stores, such as Walmart and Costco. This is not a new situation. Ten years ago, Aurora was not in compliance with the standards and the USDA charged them with “willful violation”, but nothing really changed. The USDA continues to accredit the Colorado Department of Agriculture, the inspector for Aurora Dairy. We at NOFA-NY do not certify factory farms with no access to pasture, and will continue to pressure the USDA to ensure all certifiers are compliant.
The May 12th article--The labels said ‘organic.’ But these massive imports of corn and soybeans weren’t--highlights the fact that as more and more organic feed is imported, the mechanisms for inspections and monitoring are wholly inadequate. Specifically, organic feed imports from China, Romania, Turkey, and the Ukraine have been found to violate U.S. organic standards, yet they file the paperwork and trick buyers into believing the feed is organic. The USDA must develop a rigorous monitoring and inspection system to ensure any product labeled organic that enters the country is, indeed, organic.
This causes great concern for NOFA-NY, our farmers, processors and consumers. So, what can we do?
Continue building the organic food and farm movement. Continue growing the numbers of U.S. organic farmers and organic products. Continue choosing organic foods in the marketplace and getting to know your farmers and processors. Continue believing in and protecting the integrity of organic. We will not let the greed of agro-business usurp what we know to be standards that benefit the earth, our bodies, and the planet. Call, write, email your Members of Congress and demand that they act now to protect organic standards and the organic reputation. Call, write, email the Secretary of Agriculture Purdue and demand that certifiers who violate their mission are punished and no longer able to certify.
NOFA-NY works in the policy arena to protect and strengthen the integrity of organics. We are an active member of the National Organic Coalition, the leading advocate for maintaining and improving the organic standards in the US. Through the coalition, we urge Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, the USDA, and the National Organic Program to be diligent in ensuring organic is organic, according to the rules and regulations. And we urge the USDA to strip those certifiers of their accreditation when they do not uphold the standards. We are also members of the Organic Farmers Association and IFOAM. Through these coalitions, we work tirelessly to protect and enhance the organic food and farm movement.
For more information, please read the response to the Aurora findings by Abby Youngblood, Executive Director of the National Organic Coalition, as well as the response by Liz Bawden, President of the Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance and NOFA-NY Board member.