Federal Government Allows more than 250 Nonorganic Substances to be Added to “Organic” Foods

Tuesday, July 10, 2012
More than 40 years since organic foods began as mom-and-pop operations, the multi-billion dollar movement that has transformed into Big Organic has lost much of its “organic” quality.
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), which, as a program within the Agricultural Marketing Service, maintains a list of approved organic ingredients, has gradually allowed nonorganic fillers and other foods to be added to certified goods.
Only 10 years ago, the National List had 77 nonorganic substances on it. Today, the number has climbed to more than 250.
The nonorganic ingredients include carrageenan, a seaweed-based thickener which has been linked to gastrointestinal inflammation, and synthetic inositol, which is chemically manufactured. Also on the acceptable list are docosahexzenoic acid algae oil, or DHA, and arachidonic acid single cell oil, or ARA. Six of the fifteen NOSB members actually voted to accept ammonium nonanoate, a herbicide, as an acceptable ingredient to organic foods.
Perhaps it is just a coincidence, but at the same time that the list has become corrupted, large food manufacturers have moved in and taken over many organic brands.
Bear Naked, Wholesome & Hearty, and Kashi are owned by Kellogg. PepsiCo owns Naked Juice, and Hain Celestial, once part of the Heinz empire, controls Walnut Acres, Healthy Valley, and Spectrum Organics.
As for the composition of the NOSB, four of the seats are supposed to go to organic farmers. Yet last year Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack insisted that one of those seats go to Carmela Beck, who doesn’t own or operate a farm, but is rather the organic manager for the agribusiness firm Driscoll’s.
-Noel Brinkerhoff, David Wallechinsky
To Learn More:
Has ‘Organic’ Been Oversized? (by Stephanie Strom, New York Times)
Whole Foods Accused of Accepting Genetically Modified Foods (by Noel Brinkerhoff and David Wallechinsky, AllGov)

The Organic Watergate—White Paper: Connecting the Dots: Corporate Influence at the USDA’s National Organic Program (Cornucopia Institute) (pdf) 


William Rowe 10 years ago
but sheila, don't you make your living helping people get around the intent of the OFPA?
Sheila Linderman 12 years ago
bloggers, get your facts straight! among the plethora of errors in this piece is the fact that of the 250-or-so substances on the national list (substances that are allowed in organic production, livestock and food manufacture), fewer than 80 actually pertain to food. the rest are allowed in farming. there are no herbicides allowed in organic foods! let's stop with the scare tactics, the big scary names, and the notion that pepsi is taking over the world. the fact is, pepsi and its subsidiaries have to follow the same rules that the small manufacturers follow, and they all keep the same small producers in business. another fact: more big commitments on the part of big companies means more land that has to be committed to organic agriculture. that's a good think, people. this is a federally regulated program with real-world consequences for those who don't follow the rules. pepsi gets that, and the public needs to know it.

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