Senate Proposes Changes on Organic Rules

Is It Like Putting the Fox in Charge of Guarding The Henhouse 

More and more granola minded soccer moms are buying organic nut butters, gallons of Odwalla juices and Amy’s Organic frozen dinners at big box stores. No surprise here. In San Francisco, I know lots of folks who load up their Volvos at Whole Foods before heading off to Costco. In fact there’s a term for this trend. It’s what market research folks call ‘masstige’. In other words prestige products are increasingly sold in mass stores. Costco, Target and Wal-Mart and the rest of the big discount stores, are no longer viewed by upscale consumers as low quality destinations.

Most recently Sam’s Club announced the launch of a fair-trade and organic line of coffee. While we believe this is good news, recent developments at the USDA suggest that the growing interest of retail and manufacturing giants in organic might not be so benign.

A rider added to the 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill to be voted on by the Senate today, if passed will reduce control over organic standards from the National Standards Board and put this control in the hands of federal bureaucrats in the USDA. As noted by the Organic Consumers Association, this rider is a push to allow pro-business appointees to create a broad list of synthetic ingredients that would be allowed in organic production. In other words the lobbyists for Kraft (owner of Boca Burger, Balance Bar), Dean Foods (owner of Silk and Horizon Organic), Wal-Mart and others will be able to wine and dine their way into cheapening the intent of current organic regulations, that are currently regulated by an independent National Board.

We’ll let you know what happens on Wednesday. In the meantime check out the Organic Consumers Association’s website for more information.

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