OIG upholds USDA organic process

By Agri-Pulse staff

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 25, 2012 -USDA's inspector general dismissed allegations by an organic food activist group that the Agricultural Marketing Service has improperly approved common food additives for use in organic food and that its advisory board is illegally dominated by “corporate” members.

The Office of Inspector General Tuesday made public a July 20 audit report that dismisses allegations by the Cornucopia Institute, a pressure group that faults the AMS National Organic Program and its National Organic Standards Board for alleged deviations from organic purity.

< Together we can feed the Bees" p class="MsoNormal">Cornucopia's Will Fantle complained to Inspector General Phyllis Fong May 31 that several NOSB appointments by the Obama and previous administrations don't meet legal requirements to represent organic farmers and other categories spelled out in law. The group claims in a 75-page “Organic Watergate” complaint that the board violated procedures by approving the use of carrageenan, a seaweed extract found in dairy products, and DHA, used in infant formula.

However, OIG found that the board's process for approving ingredients for organic food is “complete and meet(s) eligibility criteria,” and that it follows USDA policies and procedures when reviewing substances petitioned for approval.

“In summary, we determined that AMS has adequate management controls in place for administering the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances. We did not identify any significant reportable issues and, as such, are not making any recommendations,” OIG said.

AMS said in a notice to constituents that OIG's report “affirms the vital role of the NOSB in developing and maintaining the National List with both openness and integrity.” It said the board made its recommendations “based on careful evaluation, sound science, and public input.”

OIG also “reaffirmed that the selection process used by USDA to appoint NOSB members produced a properly balanced board for the specific positions on the NOSB,” AMS said.

Cornucopia had claimed “systemic corruption” at USDA that resulted in biased technical reviews and approvals of synthetic ingredients for use in organic food. It claimed that the petitions were “evaluated by food scientists working directly for corporate agribusiness and then approved by a body (the NOSB) illegally stacked with agribusiness representatives.” The group alleged that two NOSB members who cast deciding votes in favor of the use of synthetic material in organic food processing worked for corporate interests rather than organic farmers.

 

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