vittoria per l'agricoltura biologica in USA

Vittoria per l'agricoltura biologica in USA...nonostante i preamboli nelle dichiarazioni USDA, i consumatori avranno piu' potere per decidere.

[in coda un invito ai gruppi nazionali a formare un coordinamento internazionale per le campagne che riguardano gli OGM]


Alessandro Gimona

Organic Standards Revisited: Beyond the Niche Market of "USDA Organic"

 Quotes of the Month:

 "I do want to point out that the fact that we are once again announcing
 a proposed rule on national organic standards is a living example of our
democracy at work. The people spoke very loudly... It's a well known fact
 that we received an unprecedented 275,603 comments during the first go
 round... But let me be clear on a very important point. The organic
 classification is not a judgment about the quality or safety of any
product... Just because something is labeled as organic does not mean it is
 superior, safer or more healthy than conventional food. "
 Dan Glickman, Secretary of US Department of Agriculture, March 7, 2000.

"There's been no research to give consumers any confidence that paying twice as much for their [organic] food is giving them any enhancement in safety or
 nutritional value." Michael Phillips, executive director for food and
 agriculture of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.  Los Angeles Times
 March 8, 2000

 Victory for Organic Consumers & Farmers: The USDA Surrenders

 It's nice to win a victory once in a while. After being battered in
 Seattle, bruised by the mass consumer rejection of proposed organic rules
 in 1998, and unnerved by the growing controversy over genetically
 engineered foods, the Clinton and Gore administration find themselves on
 the defensive. Feeling the heat  from consumers, the USDA has apparently
decided to call off its food fight--at least temporarily--with the nation's
 10 million organic consumers, 6,000 retailers, and 10,000 organic farmers.
 On Wednesday, March 8, the USDA formally surrendered to the organic
 community by releasing a completely revised proposal for national organic
 food standards and labels. The new 663-page <>
 proposal incorporates nearly all of the recommendations made by the
 National Organic Standards Board  and organic activists, including a
 prohibition on genetic engineering, sewage sludge, irradiation, and a
 variety of other industrial-style agriculture practices.

 A massive, unprecedented consumer backlash in 1998 over the USDA's first
proposed regulations shook up the USDA and forced them to back off on plans
 to degrade organic standards and allow biotech and corporate agribusiness
 to take over the rapidly growing organic food market.  US organic food
 sales this year will likely reach $8 billion--a sizable bite of the $350
 billion total annual sales of the nation's supermarkets. At current growth
rates organic production will constitute 10% of American agriculture by the
 year 2010.

Besides backing off on the "Big Three" (genetic engineering, sewage sludge,
 and irradiation) the USDA bureaucrats bowed to grassroots pressure and
 basically agreed that any product bearing the label "USDA Certified
 Organic"  will have to be produced without  toxic pesticides or toxic
"inert ingredients"; that antibiotics, growth hormones, and rendered animal
 protein can not be administered or fed to animals; that factory farm-style
 intensive confinement of farm animals will not be allowed; and that no
 synthetics or chemicals will be allowed in organic production without the
 approval of the National Organic Standards Board. In addition the USDA
 basically agreed to leave the preexisting system of private and state
 organic certifiers intact; to allow accredited state and private organic
 certifiers to uphold higher standards than the USDA; and for licensed
 organic certifiers to be able to display their logos or seals on the front
 label panel of organic products. Finally the USDA backed off on their
 previous proposal to outlaw "eco-labels" which might imply that a product
 was organic.

 Despite major improvements in the current proposed USDA organic standards
 over what was put forth in 1998, there are a number of problems and
 shortcomings in the lengthy March 8 document.  Among the most obvious
 problems are the following:

 * So-called "natural foods" with less than 50% organic ingredients will be
 allowed to list their organic ingredients on their information
 panel--usually on the back of the package--even though the non-organic
 ingredients of these products may be genetically engineered, irradiated,
 derived from sewage sludge, or produced with pesticides, growth hormones,
 or antibiotics.

 *  Manure from factory farms will be allowed to be used as a fertilizer on
 organic farms.

 *  Although the proposed regulations on organic animal husbandry require
"access to outdoors," no clear definition of what constitutes "pasture" are
 offered, nor does the USDA delineate exact space or spacing requirements
 for humane housing and outdoor access for poultry, pigs, cattle, and other

* Although the USDA claim they don't intend to impose economic hardships on organic certifiers and farmers, the added costs of USDA oversight will fall
 heavily on small certifiers and farmers. The USDA should provide
 accreditation services to organic certifiers free of change as well as
 subsidize the costs of any farmer who wishes to become certified as
 organic. Beyond this the USDA should allocate funds to pay farmers a
premium price for their products during their "transition to organic" phase
 as an added incentive for the majority of farmers to begin making the
 transition to sustainable and organic farming practices.

 * Although genetic contamination of organic crops by "genetic drift" from
 farms growing genetically engineered crops is one of the most serious
environmental threats to organic agriculture, no residue limits for genetic
 contamination are delineated in the USDA's proposed federal regulations.
 The USDA must hold biotechnology patent holders and seed companies
 accountable and financially liable for the environmental and economic
 damage inflicted on organic farmers and producers caused by genetic drift.

 Proposed Rules Versus Final Rules: Consumer Vigilance & Comments Required

Although organic consumers and farmers should be proud of the fact that our
 collective grassroots efforts have forced the government to adhere to high
 standards in these proposed rules, we need to keep in mind that the March
 proposed rules are not final regulations. After a 90-day official comment
 period--which ends June 12--the USDA could bow once again to pressure from
 corporate agribusiness and the biotechnology industry and issue a set of
 weaker final rules, filled with legal loopholes and exemptions. For this
 reason it is important once again for us to flood the USDA with thousands
 of comments--which can be sent either by email (go to the USDA website
 listed above); by fax (703-365-0760); or regular mail (Keith Jones,
National Organic Program, USDA-AMS-TMP-NOP, Room 2945-So., Ag Stop 0275, PO
 Box 96456, Washington, D.C. 20090-6456). When sending comments by fax or
 regular mail identify your comments as referring to docket number
TMD-00-02-PR. Please demand that the USDA deal with the five problems we've
 noted above, but stress first and foremost that the USDA should not weaken
 the provisions outlined in the March proposed rules in any manner

 Industrial Agriculture Takes Over the World: Must Organic Remain a Niche

The main problem with "USDA Certified Organic," as outlined in the proposed
 rules, is not so much what the government says, but rather what they
 deliberately ignore or fail to say. There's not a word in the new organic
standards about the evermore obvious dangers of industrial agriculture and
 genetic engineering. Not a word about the 80 million cases of food
 poisoning every year in the US resulting directly from the filth, disease,
 and chemical contamination inherent in factory farming and industrialized
 food processing. Not a word about rampant pesticide contamination and
 hormone-disrupting chemicals in our food supply. Not a word about tons of
 antibiotic drugs on factory farms being routinely fed to animals to make
 them grow faster, which end up as residues in non-organic meat, poultry,
 eggs, and dairy products--giving rise to dangerous drug-resistant strains
 of salmonella and campylobacter.

 In the USDA proposal there's not a word about billions of pounds of
 pesticides and nitrate fertilizers contaminating more and more of the
 nation's municipal water supplies. Not a word about the nation's food and
 water-related cancer epidemic (48% of all males and 38% of all females in
 the US can now look forward to getting cancer), or the even deadlier toll
 resulting from heart disease and obesity--directly related to Americans'
 overconsumption of junk food, meat, and animal products. Not a word about
the growing international call, endorsed by the British Medical Association
 among others, for a global moratorium on genetically engineered foods and
 crops. Instead the US Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman once more
 repeated the Big Lie of Biotechnology and Corporate Agribusiness on March

 "Organic does not mean it is superior, safer, or more healthy than
 conventional food. All foods in this country must meet the same high
 standards of safety regardless of their classification."

 On the sustainability front, there's not a word in the proposed organic
 regulations on reducing "food miles." Not a word on how the average
over-processed, over-packaged, chemically and genetically-contaminated food product in the US has traveled 1500 miles (burning up incredible amounts of non-renewable energy and releasing climate disrupting greenhouse gases into
 the atmosphere) before arriving at your supermarket. There's no mention of
 the fact that recent statistics indicate that the single greatest cause of
 global warming and climate destabilization may be industrial (i.e
 non-organic, non-sustainable, non-locally produced) agriculture.  Likewise
 there's not a word in the new National Organic Program about the urgent
 necessity of preserving biodiversity, in terms of food crops, animal
 breeds, and wild species.

 The US and Global Farm Crisis: Organic Niche Markets Are Not Enough

 Finally the proposed organic rules have little or nothing to say about the
 life or death economic crisis currently confronting American farmers and
 rural communities. Likewise the USDA is silent on the frightening
 implications of the further industrialization and globalization of
 agriculture for the world's two billion small farmers and rural villagers.
 The bottom line is that no one today is making any money in agriculture
 except for the transnational corporate giants who control farm commodity
 prices, agricultural input prices, seeds, patents, and retail food sales.
 In other words Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Monsanto, Dupont, Cargill, Coca-Cola,
 Tyson, Con-Agra, Kraft, and Archer Daniels Midland are making billions
 while family farmers in the US and all over the world are going bankrupt.
 In America today, 94% of the average farm family's income comes from wages
earned off the farm. Even as far back as 1990 the USDA admitted that 70% of
 the nation's two million farmers were not earning enough income to support
 a family. In the state of Minnesota, for example, it is estimated that 8%
 of all farmers will be driven into bankruptcy or forced to give up farming
 in the next 12 months.

 The implicit assumption in USDA agricultural policy is that the 10% or so
 of American small farmers who eventually switch over to organic production
 over the next decade will probably survive, and even, in some cases,
 prosper.  The remaining 90% of US farmers will either be forced to sell
 their land or consolidate their operations into giant biotech and chemical
 intensive factory farms, leaving them the option of becoming tractor
 drivers or tenant farmers. The implications for public health,
 biodiversity, and a sustainable climate and environment of having organic
and sustainable agriculture remain nothing more than a small "niche market"
 alongside a monstrous North American network of biotech and industrial ag
 factory farms is not reassuring. Applied on a global scale this chemical
 and genetically engineered driven model of agriculture will be literally

 Food Agenda 2000: Transforming American Agriculture

The growing US and global citizens movement against genetic engineering and
 corporate globalization can draw inspiration from the fact that America's
 organic community woke up, got organized, and forced the USDA to maintain
strict organic standards, at least for the moment. This is an important and
 historic victory for citizen action, comparable in significance perhaps to
the US anti-nuclear movement stopping the building of new nuclear plants in
 the late-1970s. Our common victory in this Save Organic Standards campaign
 underlines the effectiveness of mass-based public education and
 mobilization in this new era of computer-based information and global
 internet communications. But of course this unprecedented rebellion of
 granola eaters, organic farmers, environmentalists, animal protection
 advocates, and health conscious soccer moms is just the beginning.

 The challenge over the next months and years will be to see if organic
 consumers, environmental organizations, farm activists, churches, and
 public interest groups can build upon this tactical victory and begin
 making headway in the bigger battle--driving genetically engineered crops
 off the market all over the world, beginning to phase-out the most
 dangerous practices of industrial agriculture, and jump-starting the
conversion of the majority of the world's agriculture to organic methods as
 soon as possible. To do this means we'll have to organize a mass base of
 support in every local area and state, form national networks and
 coalitions, and then link up with our counterparts all over the world. We
 and our allies, from Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to the Consumers
 Union and the National Family Farm Coalition, have already started to do
 this, but we've still got a long road ahead. If we're going to see 30% of
 more of American agriculture go organic before the end of the decade we're
 going to have to build up a powerful nationwide network of organic
 consumers. If we're going to drive Frankenfoods off the market, and clean
up the mess of chemical-intensive agriculture we'll need a lot of political


 We invite you to join the Organic Consumers Association in our campaign to
 transform America's food and agriculture system:

(1) Volunteer to help organize an OCA chapter in your local community. Send
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 Agenda 2000--in your local community. Again send an email to
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 And finally don't forget to send in your comments to the USDA on the
 proposed national organic standards by June 12. Stay tuned to OCA website
 <> and our newsletter for further developments.

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