PANNA: Action Alert: Organic Standards


Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)

See PANUPS updates service, for complete information.

Action Alert: Organic Standards
June 5, 2000

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released its new proposal for national organic food standards in March 2000. While USDA fixed many problems identified in the 275,000 public comments submitted on the draft standards two years ago, it has not completely closed loopholes that would allow use of genetic engineering, irradiation and sewage sludge at some time in the future. The new proposed standards also allow animal factories to be considered organic, and impose fees that will drive small family farmers out of organic agriculture. In addition, the proposal does not provide leeway for farmers and certifiers to improve and strengthen organic standards.

This is the final round–the public’s last chance for comments on organic standards. Tell USDA to adopt a rule that guarantees strong national organic standards. The Department is accepting comments through June 12, 2000.

Call on USDA to take the following actions:

1. Genetic engineering, irradiation, and sewage sludge should be prohibited from all aspects of organic production because of health and environmental impacts, and should not be subject to future approval on a case-by-case review. Irradiation must be defined; and burned sewage sludge (ash) should not be allowed because it is toxic. [Sections 205.2, 205.204(b), 205.206(f), 205.236(b)(3), 205.270(b)(2)]

2. Keep animal factories out of organic. Eliminate the loopholes and require pasture-based systems for ruminants and true outdoor access for all farm animals. Physical alterations of animals should not be allowed without formal National Organic Standard Board (NOSB) review. [Sections 205.238, 205.239]

3. Don’t hold organic farmers responsible for the polluting action of others: gene pollution, chemical drift, and federal and state mandatory spray programs. Farmers cannot and should not have to control pollution from outside sources. Polluters must be held responsible. [Sections 205.201]

4. Don’t harm small farmers. The USDA proposal must provide lower fees for family farmers and develop a cost share program for small farmers. To support small farmers in the global south, USDA should follow the NOSB’s recommendations on imports. [Sections 205.236, 205.500, 205.640, 205.642]

5. Specify systems for enforcing organic standards. The standards must spell out specific responsibilities and authorities of states, private certifiers, federal agencies, and citizens to make complaints, investigate violations, halt sale of products, and impose penalties. [Sections 205.400; 205.404; 202.405; 205.660]

6. Equalize the public/private partnership. The new standards should allow for continued higher standards and farmer innovation; keep the private certifier system; maintain high levels of public participation in the ongoing development of standards and implementation of the program. [Sections 205.400, 205.501, 205.505, 205.507]

7. Maintain high standards. The USDA proposal did make substantial progress in a number of areas. Tell USDA not to back down on its ban on the feeding of animal products back to animals (helping prevent Mad Cow Disease); requirement of 100% organic animal feeds; and recognition of NOSB’s authority over the National List of prohibited and allowed substances; and creation of the 100% organic label.


Submit written comments with section numbers (bracketed numbers above) to:

Keith Jones, Program Manager, National Organic Program
USDA-AMS-TMP-NOP, Room 2945-So, Ag Stop 0275, P.O. Box 96456,
Washington, D.C. 20090-6456.

Fax comments to (703) 365-0760;
or comment directly at

Be sure to refer to Docket Number TMD-00-02-PR2 in all comments.

View the proposed rule: March 13, 2000 edition of the Federal Register (available at most libraries) or at

For more information:

Source: Organic Watch action alert, May 15, 2000. (Organic Watch is a project of the Center for Food Safety, Humane Society of the United States and Rural Advancement Foundation International.)

PANUPS is a weekly email news service providing resource guides and reporting on pesticide issues that don’t always get coverage by the mainstream media. It’s produced by Pesticide Action Network North America, a non-profit and non-governmental organization working to advance sustainable alternatives to pesticides worldwide.

You can join our efforts! We gladly accept donations for our work and all contributions are tax deductible in the United States. Visit our extensive web site at to learn more about getting involved.



Back to top