Washington, ME, April 27, 2015 - This week Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA)− the farmer-led membership trade organization which develops, protects, and promotes the organic seed trade and its farmers− is sending a representative to attend the four-day meeting of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to be held in La Jolla, CA. OSGATA President Jim Gerritsen will testify on behalf of OSGATA's membership about the critical need to maintain integrity in the organic industry.
The NOSB was established as the official liaison between the organic community and organic industry regulators at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) through Congress's adoption of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (OFPA). Many organic stakeholders feel the single greatest duty of the NOSB is to safeguard the integrity of the organic food.
"OSGATA takes very seriously its responsibility to help protect the organic community," said longtime Maine certified organic seed farmer, Jim Gerritsen, OSGATA president. "The twice yearly public meetings of the National Organic Standards Board are the best opportunity for us to express our support for the NOSB and to provide the NOSB with guidance on policy issues critical to maintaining organic integrity and therefore the true interests of organic consumers."
|Jim Gerritsen, OSGATA President.|
OSGATA has provided to the citizen-advisory NOSB input on myriad matters of organic integrity− from protecting certified organic seed and certified organic food crops from contamination by genetically engineered (GE) crops, to the role of USDA in accepting guidance from NOSB regarding challenges faced by the organic industry.
Consistent with OSGATA's view of its role in protecting the organic community, OSGATA was one of 15 organic industry stakeholders which recently filed a lawsuit against USDA for a violation of the federal rulemaking process in regard to potentially hazardous and synthetic and prohibited natural substances allowed in organic production.
A September, 2013, change to established procedures for reviewing materials complicates the NOSB role as an oversight agency, as outlined in OFPA.
Importantly, the NOSB regulates allowances of specific synthetic materials in organic based on a determination that these materials do not cause harm to human health and the environment and are necessary in organic food production and processing, given a lack of alternatives. Under the law, a review of these materials takes place on a five-year cycle, with a procedure for re-listing if consistent with OFPA criteria.
Plaintiffs in this case maintain that the OFPA clearly established a public process that creates public trust in the USDA organic label, which has resulted in exponential growth in organic sales over the last two decades. The organic coalition plaintiffs have asked the federal court to require USDA to reconsider its decision on the rule change and reinstitute the agency's customary public hearing and comment process.