It’s hard to really know what goes into our food these days. As we’ve covered before, there are literally hundreds of non-organic ingredients allowed under the current USDA organic certification. While their is no policy at the Federal level regarding GMO-labeling for food, states like Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine have taken steps to require food producers to say whether their products contain GMOs. California and Washington State came very close to enacting such legislation (in California, the final vote was 51%-49%). Still, for most Americans there is very little protection when it comes to knowing what we are eating.
California has been able to enact legislation to protect consumers. False advertising laws, the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and unfair competition laws were all recently cited in a recent class-action lawsuit against HerbThyme Farms, Inc. They were mixing non-organic herbs with organic product and labeling it “organic”. However, the case recently reached the California Court of Appeal, and the lawyers for HerbThyme were able to convince the court that any state law claims are preempted by the Federal Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 (“OFPA”).
According to HerbThyme, the OFPA “mandates that there be one deciding body or umpire on the question of whether food products are organic – namely the USDA or its state designee – and that the USDA alone may define the zone in which such an “organic” designation may fall. They argued that if individual consumers could second-guess the USDA’s “organic” call through state law consumer actions, industry players would hesitate stepping to the plate.” (Pardon the apparent baseball references but this was the language used to state the case in court). They also argued that “the purpose of the OFPA – attaining a vibrant organic industry in which producers and consumers could rely on a nationwide unifying “organic” standard – would be defeated. In effect, the plaintiff had sought to replace the OFPA and its implementing regulations, the National Organic Program (“NOP”), with a reasonable consumer standard, and sought to replace the federal umpire or USDA with a California state court jury or juries, comprised of individual consumers.”
While this isn’t the final say on the matter, it does bring to light a disturbing scenario where a given state’s ability to protect its citizens runs into trouble once it goes up against Federal legislation that seems geared toward protecting business interests. Just this weekend, the USDA announced that it is considering deregulating genetically-engineered corn and soybean plants that are resistant to herbicides. However, if enough states enact similar legislation, it might trigger tougher standards at the Federal level.
This why it’s so important that in 2014, earth and health-conscious individuals inform themselves about what their local and state laws are regarding food production and labeling. We need to motivate ourselves to get involved and take action, and we need to support local food producers whenever possible to provide us with “real” organic and sustainably produced goods. One piece of this puzzle is making the food we eat last longer, so that we end up wasting less, and that is where BerryBreeze™ is passionately dedicated to making a difference. Prolonging the enjoyment of fresh and living fruits and vegetables, that are the best way to nourish our bodies with the vitamins and nutrients we need, is our mission and our commitment to the natural and organic food community!
What are your thoughts on food labeling? Do you live in a state that requires it? Leave us a comment and let us know!