Tuesday, July 10, 2018 by Ethan Huff
Its name suggests that it represents the cleaner side of the American food supply – which at one point was true. But the Organic Trade Association (OTA) appears to be systematically selling out to the dark side, prompting a major organic food company to leave its ranks.
Nature’s Path Organic, one of the leading American suppliers of organic breakfast cereals and other food products, recently announced its resignation from OTA, citing the organization’s hemorrhaging of its true organic roots.
While the OTA is supposed to lobby on behalf of the organic industry, it’s increasingly standing up for corporate agribusiness instead – which is having a hugely negative impact on small-scale farmers and growers, not to mention companies like Nature’s Path, to which they supply raw ingredients.
One of the most recent indications of this betrayal was the OTA’s brokering of a GMO labeling “compromise” with Congress that’s effectively disengaging state-level GMO labeling laws like the one passed in Vermont that was on the verge of going into effect.
Put simply, the OTA is basically siding with multinational corporations like Monsanto that have been fighting tooth and nail for years to block all GMO labeling laws, even though it claims to support purveyors of clean, non-GMO, and certified organic foods.
“Our departure from the OTA is an act of protest to raise awareness of our concerns that the important role organic plays in support of the health of consumers and our planet is being compromised,” stated company founder and co-CEO Arran Stephens.
This decision follows a similar one made by organic toothpaste and soap company Dr. Bronner’s, which decided to part ways with the OTA after observing its “general drift away from the core principles that drive the organic movement.”
The Cornucopia Institute (CI), a nonprofit watchdog group, has been sounding the alarm about the OTA’s betrayal of true organic standards for many years now – including its support of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Organic Program’s (NOP) acceptance of certifying as organic fruits and vegetables produced using hydroponics.
“It did not matter to OTA lobbyists that the requirement for good soil stewardship, in both the enabling legislation and the regulations, was a prerequisite for organic certification,” says Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at CI.
“When there are billions of dollars at stake, time and time again, the OTA has sided with conventional agribusiness interested in liberalizing the working definition of organics.”
The OTA has similarly been lax on so-called organic “factory farms” that house tens of thousands of animals. CI has been vigilant in warning key organic industry players about the fact that feedlots packed with as many as 15,000 cows simply don’t meet true organic standards – and yet the OTA sees no problem with them.
Even the USDA itself has problems with the OTA, which it says falsely claimed that the entire organic industry was in support of a new tax that would have been levied on organic farmers and businesses for promotion and research purposes. Upon further investigation, federal regulators determined that many organic players were opposed to the scheme.
Many also claim that the OTA has long had its “tentacles” reaching into the management at the National Organic Program (NOP), which is supposed to be an independent advisory panel established and maintained by Congress – another violation of the original intent of the program.
“It is critical that the large processors who care about organic stand up and join the farmers and eaters who are fighting for real organic,” says Dave Chapman, a greenhouse grower from Vermont, in response to Nature’s Path’s withdrawal from the OTA.
“This is not just a matter of ‘protecting the brand’ but also of protecting the meaning of organic. Without that meaning, the brand isn’t worth protecting.”
Read CleanFoodWatch.com for more headlines on clean food vs. contaminated food.
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