USDA Failure to Protect Organic Food

Is USDA failure creating a situation where food labelled organic is allowed to contain genetically modified ingredients ? As we wrote about earlier this month,  the USDA recently changed the rules by which the National Organic Safety Board (NOSB) regulates the amount of non-organic material that can be included in products labelled “organic”. We also recently found out that the prevalence of GMO in foods, even foods labelled organic, is inescapable. Within the 5% of non-organic stuff allowed in organic products, GMO corn is often found under the misnomer “citric acid”. 

Citric acid sounds like something that comes from citrus, right? Nope, it comes from a mold that is grown in the presence of a “carbohydrate”. Large organic producers, looking to maximize yield and lower costs, often use genetically modified corn as the carbohydrate, which produces a genetically modified mold.

Organic watchdog groups like the Organic Consumers Association and the Cornacopia Institute see the recent turn of events as USDA failure, and are deeply troubled by the changes in the review process. The members of Congress who wrote the original 1990 Organic Foods Production Act have expressed outrage at the harm the changes have done to the spirit of the law. Three former chairmen of the NOSB have written Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilisak expressing concerns that the rule changes were a “radical shift” from past practices that “could lead to a court challenge”.

It appears that USDA failure to protect consumers, who expect that the food they buy to be 100% organic and to not contain GMOs, is the result of a capitulation to big businesses who have co-opted the “organic” brand and are reaping huge profits in the organics market. It has gotten to the point where the best place to really know what’s in the food you are eating is to grow it yourself or buy it from someone you know who does.