Communiqué on OTA's Consistent Work to Weaken Organic Standards

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3 October 2005

Eden Foods joins with consumer, farmer, and public interest groups asking Congress to reject the machinations currently led by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) to weaken and cheapen organic standards.

"While big agribusiness and some OTA members have spoken in favor of the OTA's actions, Eden Foods strongly objects," said Eden Chairman and President Michael Potter. "As the oldest and a founding member of the organic foods industry that has never employed shortcuts, we believe that the fast, cheap, and easy route is counter productive in organic food production."

"Eden Foods agrees with the Organic Consumers Association, the Center for Food Safety, the National Cooperative Grocers Association, and more than 100,000 Americans who have contacted Congress over the past weeks seeking the preservation and strengthening of organic standards."

In order to achieve strong organic standards and maintain and build the public's trust in organic food, Congress must reject OTA's proposed rider to the 2006 Agriculture Appropriations Bill now being discussed in the House/Senate Conference Committee.

During the week of 19 September the OTA and its lobbyists attempted to attach a last minute rider to the Agricultural Bill that was developed by OTA and some of its members.

"We are deeply disturbed by the secretive and deceptive way that the OTA has gone about this," said Organic Consumers Association National Director Ronnie Cummins. "By distorting the issues, refusing to negotiate, and creating a false sense of urgency, this organization has done a great disservice to many of their members as well as to Congress and the entire organic community."

"In the broadest and most basic sense, the OTA rider takes away the organic community's leading role in setting and monitoring organic standards for processed organic foods, and instead places this power in the hands of the USDA and industry," said Mr. Cummins. "It undermines the essential authority of the organic community and the National Organic Standards Board to decide whether or not hundreds of synthetic substances can be put on the National List and used in organic production, and undermines organic integrity by allowing individual organic certifiers and the USDA to decide whether particular organic ingredients are 'commercially available' or not, without review by the NOSB."

On 21 September the Senate refused to accept the OTA's proposed rider, instead adding a new amendment that requests the USDA to study the issues within 90 days and report its findings to the Senate. Members of the Senate are encouraging the OTA to respond in writing to criticisms of the rider and sit down and negotiate in good faith with representatives of the organic community.

As the Center for Food Safety reported on 22 September, "The best case scenario: The result of these meetings will be an amendment that strengthens the organic law. Worst case scenario: OTA rejects any strengthening of the law and tries to ram through its amendment and weaken the law."

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"We at Eden actively support the best case outcome to create the highest standards and integrity of organic food," said Mr. Potter. "We are disappointed but not surprised by the actions of the OTA. These recent actions exemplify the reasons Eden Foods has never been a member of the OTA despite urging from industry peers to join. We hope to see like-minded companies reconsider their funding of the OTA. No matter how you cut it, the OTA has worked consistently to weaken organic standards."