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Why Eden Foods chooses not to use the USDA seal

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19 June 2006

Though all Eden organic food is grown, handled, processed, and certified in a way that meets and exceeds the requirements for using the 'USDA Organic' seal, Eden Foods chooses not to use this seal on its product labels or marketing materials.

Many reasonably ask how Eden came to this decision. The short answer is, this seal does not approach Eden's high standards for organic, in practice or in spirit.

Years before the implementation of the National Organic Program (USDA's NOP) in October of 2002, Eden got word in 1992 that a national standard for organic was underway. In theory it seemed like a good idea, but early on we had serious concerns.

Petitioning the NOP several times in the rule drafting process, Eden asked that the new national organic standards be a strong minimum standard, allowing growers and companies to certify to a higher standard. The answer was an adamant No: the USDA intended to set one minimum organic standard, it would not allow higher standards to be certified, and total control would lie with USDA.

In the first draft released to the public, the USDA announced its intention to allow food grown in city and industrial sewage sludge, genetically engineered food, and irradiated food to be certified organic. This became infamously known as the 'Big Three.' As deafening public outcry caused the USDA to 'cave,' Eden issued a press release that the struggle to save organic standards was still very much alive. We recognized the 'Big Three' as a common negotiating tactic: Make an offer that is so ridiculously unacceptable that all future offers would seem good by comparison. Our concerns have been realized. Under USDA it has become cheaper and easier for manufacturers to market 'organic' food that is not organic by any reasonable definition.

The most serious degradation of national organic standards occurred in October 2005. In a back room deal the Organic Trade Association lobbied Congress to legalize the adulteration of organic food with basically any toxic additive a manufacturer may want to use, including substances that do not need to appear on ingredient panels. More than 400,000 consumers contacted their government representatives asking them not to weaken organic standards in such a way, but agribusiness influences prevailed.

As a result, food bearing the 'USDA Organic' seal no longer needs to be natural food.

As a company that has worked for decades alongside salt-of-the-earth organic family farmers to grow and make food by the highest possible organic standards, we cannot in good conscience add a symbol to this food that essentially cheapens it.

We can however promise that we will continue to make the best, authentically organic food, grown on family farms we know and trust, handled and processed in a way that does not compromise its integrity.



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