Marketing? Yes, that is the only real thing that the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 set out to accomplish. The AMS group was given $120,000 at the request of organic food lobbyists and permission to create a set of standards they could use in marketing, to create an official seal of what "organic" would mean. The time-limited advisory board they created was re-authorized by USDA in 2014 and at that time, a group of organic food marketing groups petitioned to have themselves removed from USDA oversight.
If the recent audit is any indication, they are more interested in helping 80 certifying agents stay in business than protecting organic food purchasers. Not only are they undeserving of more independence, this new look reveals USDA needs to assert more oversight.
Organic equivalent - when it's synthetic but we like it
The audit found that the "process for determining equivalency of organic standards lacked transparency." In plain language that means it is arbitrary. Want to make sure organic bread businesses can keep up with conventional ones? Exempt baking soda as an organic leavening agent even though biological agents (ummm, like yeast) obviously exist. Unless you want to bake bread faster.
Want to use pheromones for insect control even though that is clearly a synthetic pesticide method? Exempt it.
And there are dozens of other examples.
AMS is relieved a third party took notice
For its part, AMS gladly accepted the findings. They agreed with all nine of them. They know that NOP's National Organic Standards Board is a gaggle of rogue fifth columnists terrifying people about conventional food, which AMS has responsibility for also. Corporate marketing groups like Organic Consumers Association, which directly created US Right To Know, an industry front group, in order to promote their clients, many of whom currently sit or have been on the NOSB exempting themselves from oversight.
They know that organic food companies are desperate to grow, and if they can't penalize competitors, they have to lower their own prices.
That means imports, many of them from suspect places.
Here's your organic "recognition certificate" (wink wink)
The audit chastised the Agricultural Marketing Services (AMS) group for not requiring NOP "to verify that imported agricultural products labeled as organic were from certified organic foreign farms and businesses that produce and sell organic products."
In other words, NOP is making sure dozens and dozens of groups are allowed to sell stickers in the United States, but they don't expend much energy to ensure that organic food is organic at all. Customers have been alarmed to find that even 25 percent of organic food is just regular food, without even the intellectual placebo of toxic organic pesticides rather than conventional kinds, but that figure could be even higher as its popularity has grown.
Want to sell organic products in Whole Foods but don't have an organic certification program in your country? Just ask for a "recognition agreement" under the National Organic Program Handbook, NOP 2200 Recognition and Monitoring of Foreign Government Conformity Assessment Systems and you are almost certain to get it. And you can claim you're certified.
Would you like one shot of fumigant or two on your food?
Customers who think they are buying food with "no chemicals" (they do think that, but since 80 percent of them also believe their food has no DNA, they don't understand science) will be alarmed to find that their organic food is fumigated at U.S. ports of entry to prevent prohibited pests from entering the United States. And NOP does not distinguish that for customers at all.
Don't feel bad, up to 5 percent of that fumigant can be on organic food and it can still be called organic, thanks to that NOSB exemption. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service does provide two other options instead of chemical fumigation if the organic importer doesn't want pests killed with synthetic chemicals; the company importing it can return the organic food shipment to its port of origin or destroy it. To-date not a single organic food distributor has chosen either of those two. They never let Organic Consumers Association mention that when they are talking about customer 'right to know.'
APHIS also allows pesticide removal via ionizing radiation. aerosols and micronized dust. Which of those do organic shoppers think is okay?
Decades of lax enforcement for organic food, no health effects
To-date, no one can show that important conventional food labeled as organic, or organic food that has been fumigated or irradiated, has led to any harmful effect. So it seems odd that organic corporate marketing groups insist we are all in peril unless we eat organic food rather than conventional.
That there have been no real health effects simply shows all our food is safe. Buy organic at Whole Foods if you like supporting a corporation bigger than Monsanto. Buy conventional if it's a better price. It won't make a difference.
Anyone saying otherwise is selling you an organic onion. Or pineapple. Or something else that is pointless to buy organic.