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Destroying Trust | USDA Introduces New Threat To Organic Food Chain

I’ve written a lot about the importance of building trust when marketing your business. Today I want to talk about a branch of our government that’s destroying trust that the public has in organic foods.

Close to 20 years ago my husband and I decided to “go organic” because we felt that we didn’t want to put anything in our bodies that was tainted with pesticides, antibiotics or other chemicals. We read about organic farming, and the standards that had been developed internally within the organic farming industry and felt that we could put our trust in the standards that they developed. Unfortunately, since the USDA has taken over organic certification, they have been slowing destroying trust.

And they are destroying trust in numerous ways. As large corporations such as General Mills have bought smaller organic producers, the advisory boards that are supposed to act as watchdogs for the USDA organic program have become populated with representatives of the very corporations they are supposed to be watching over. In a article on, author Nancy Schatz Alton writes:

“Over the past several years, numerous small- and medium-sized organic producers have been folded into larger corporations. More than half of the 20 top multinational food manufacturers have acquired organic brands. Even the current NOSB reflects this corporate turn in organics. Appointed by the Secretary of Agriculture, the board’s 15 members include representatives from categories including farmer/grower; handler/processor; retailer; consumer/public interest; environmentalist; scientist; and certifying agent. Previously, the board was more representative of small farmers and interests outside of the corporate sector…”

“Former NOSB board member Jim Riddle notes that all three consumer seats are now filled with people representing corporations. “It’s a balance that’s out of whack,” says Riddle. “Traditionally, the scientist seat has gone to a scientist from a university. Now it is a corporate scientist from General Mills. She is a nice person and has a Ph.D., but it is not impartial science.”

Not surprising that special interest groups have now taken the place of impartial experts who are supposed to be protecting our food sources, thus destroying trust that had been built up over the years prior to USDA involvement.

Nancy continues:

“In her book What to Eat, Marion Nestle writes, “As for attempts to weaken the rules, think ‘relentless.’ Political appointees at the USDA are always looking for loopholes that might favor conventional growers.” The USDA runs the NOP while continuing to follow its main mandate from Congress, which is to promote conventional agriculture, writes Nestle. The dichotomy between these two programs is clear.”

When the US government decided to take over the organic standards some years ago, there was a huge uproar in the organic community, fearing that the standards would be lowered. According to the USDA, one of those standards is the right for people to be able to buy and consume food that is free of “genetically modified materials”.

Now, the organic food chain is faced with another very real threat. Secretary Vilsack of the USDA, who pledged to represent the “eater”, not just the farming industry, wants to allow genetically engineered alfalfa seeds into the US market despite as a petition from Food Democracy states “…the USDA’s acknowledged risk of genetic contamination to conventional and organic alfalfa,” thus destroying trust in the safety of organic foods.

If the future of clean organic foods is of any interest to you or your family, please join me by signing the petition below:

“Dear Secretary Vilsack,

As an American citizen who cares about how our nation’s food is grown and produced, I was shocked to read about the USDA’s recent draft environmental impact statement (EIS) that would allow genetically modified alfalfa to enter the U.S. market, despite the USDA’s acknowledged risk of genetic contamination to conventional and organic alfalfa.

I am writing in regard to draft EIS (APHIS-2007-0044) to ask that you reject Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa and to reconsider several of the misleading statements found in the USDA’s draft EIS. Since freedom from genetically modified materials is a central tenet to complying with the Organic Standards, failure to reject GMO alfalfa will make the Obama / Vilsack USDA a willing accomplice in the destruction of the organic sector.

As the USDA EIS readily admits, such contamination will cause significant economic harm to small conventional and organic family farmers, not only forcing many of them out of business, but further increasing farm size and consolidating agriculture into the hands of fewer individuals. Hopefully, this is neither a goal of the USDA nor of this current administration or an unintended consequence of any of its policies.

In addition, the implication that U.S. consumers do not care about genetic contamination of organic food shows that the Obama administration is not only out of touch with the American people, but demonstrates how little they understand the fastest growing and most profitable sectors of agriculture today.

As a consumer of organic foods, I care deeply about the integrity of the products that I buy. Not only does organic food production offer better protection for the environment and produce foods that are higher in nutritional density, but it also offers a better economic return for family farmers who have set the highest standard for agricultural production.

It is my hope, that as a Secretary of Agriculture that promised he would represent “eaters” as well as farmers, that you would reject GMO alfalfa so that you can do both.


[Your Name]

Please help in making it clear to the USDA that destroying trust in organics is not acceptable.

Susan Martin, Business Sanity

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