By Jim Webster
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
March 1 - USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service should require testing feed on
organic dairy farms to assure consumers that it's free of material from biotech
crops, USDA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) says in an audit report. The
auditors don't say there is any evidence of biotech contamination of dairy
rations but assert that “unless certifying agents utilize GM detection to
identify potential violations, there cannot be reasonable assurance that
certifiers are identifying and ensuring that GM material is not contaminating
organic feed and forage.”
reluctantly with OIG's recommendation, saying that it would analyze the
reliability and usefulness of tests that might determine whether a biotech
trait showed up in dairy feed, either intentionally or unavoidably - “an
essential distinction for enforcement purposes.” It plans to complete the analysis
by February 2013.
Organic Program officials “expressed concerns about the feasibility of such
testing,” OIG said, because rapid tests for a biotech trait only can detect its
presence but not its level. AMS
relies on its certification process - identity preservation, audit trails and
inspection - to verify that feed and forage is organic. OIG says AMS organic officials “believe that it is better to
allow the certifying agents to decide what they should test for, based on local
agricultural conditions, proximity to conventional farming operations and the
product being inspected.”
OIG acknowledged the obstacles to regular testing but added
that “consumers expect that organic milk will not come from cattle fed a diet
containing GM material.” The Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards
Administration Federal has such tests, OIG pointed out.
The biotech test recommendation was one of eight mostly
picayune, procedural steps that USDA should take “to better ensure that
consumers who choose to pay a premium for organic milk are receiving the
high-quality product they wish to purchase.” Acting AMS Administrator Robert
Keeney agreed to implement all of the suggestions.
OIG also recommended that certifying agents include milk hauling
in their organic system plans. Because bulk milk tankers are not certified
organic, OIG sees “a risk that organic milk can come into contact with
prohibited substances as it is being transported from the producer to the
processing facility.” It also proposed that certifying agents be told to
conduct unannounced inspections of organic operations. Such inspections “provide
a useful control for ensuring that dairy operations are complying with the
rules of organic production,” the auditors said.
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