OMRI Announces New Contracts with the USDA
(October 15, 2012)
The USDA has contracted with OMRI to complete two critical projects for the organic industry. Once again, OMRI was chosen to produce a list of substances allowed in organic production, this time focusing on livestock materials. The list will be published by the National Organic Program (NOP) as a draft guidance. At the same time, the NOP has contracted with OMRI as one of several businesses eligible to Full Story
Organic Produce and the Validity
of Organic Food Studies
If your kid goes to Stanford University, you no doubt proudly sport the bumper sticker on your SUV; after all, the name "Stanford" carries a lot of panache. The school is considered a place where the intellectually elite congregate to deduce brilliant things. But, when researchers at Stanford went to the press with the conclusion that organic food isn't really any better than conventional food, they cast doubt on just how smart they are at Stanford after all.Full Story
Congratulations to Katherine DiMatteo, the new elected President of the World Board of IFOAM. DiMatteo, senior associate at Wolf, Dimatteo & Associates, served as executive director of the OTA from 1990 to 2006.
Congratulations to OMRI for receiving their ISO 65 designation after 3 years of hard work! Full Story
CCOF Achieves Half Million Acres of
Certified Organic Production
Congratulations to CCOF on achieving half million acres of CCOF Certified Organic Production!
EC&S is proud to support their efforts. Full Story
OMRI Announces New Contracts with the USDA
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(October 15, 2012) The USDA has contracted with OMRI to complete two critical projects for the organic industry. Once again, OMRI was chosen to produce a list of substances allowed in organic production, this time focusing on livestock materials. The list will be published by the National Organic Program (NOP) as a draft guidance. At the same time, the NOP has contracted with OMRI as one of several businesses eligible to bid on and produce Technical Reports for the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) over the next five years. Together, these two contracts will allow OMRI to contribute critical support in what has become a new era for input review.
First, the new draft guidance will provide the USDA and NOP with the basis for a Livestock Permitted Substances List (PSL), a complete list of substances allowed in organic livestock production. Last winter OMRI delivered a draft PSL for materials used in crop production, and that document is expected to undergo a public comment period in the near future. See the original press release here. In the meantime, the NOP and OMRI have turned their attention toward a similar resource for organic livestock production.
"We appreciate this opportunity to again support the NOP and the organic industry by contributing toward clear guidance on inputs," said Peggy Miars, OMRI's Executive Director/CEO. "Livestock materials in particular are an area where we need to reach consensus, and further clarification will help to harmonize the industry. Ultimately these efforts ensure that organic consumers continue to always receive reliable products." Certifiers and producers of organic livestock products have suggested that more complete lists of approved materials and brand name inputs are needed, particularly for farmers and ranchers who are transitioning.
Production of the draft guidance is expected to span several months. Meanwhile, the organization is prepared to work on Technical Reports at any time. These reports support NOSB decision making by analyzing a specific material or class of materials, including details such as production techniques, common uses, and environmental impact. OMRI produced Technical Reports in the past, and the organization welcomes the opportunity to conduct this type of research once again.
With over 15 years of experience focusing on input review, OMRI is singularly qualified to provide both of these services. "We are dedicated to contributing leadership and technical support to benefit the community," said Miars. "With improved efficiency, we now evaluate new product review applications as soon they arrive, and we currently list over 2500 products. We're running smoothly ready to provide heightened leadership and guidance wherever the industry needs it."
OMRI will continue to publish the Generic Materials List for subscribers, certifiers, producers, and the general public, including a section on materials for organic livestock production. Although the NOP PSL will provide the official reference for materials, OMRI will maintain the Generic Materials List for internal use, and the publication will remain available to subscribers and the public at www.omri.org.
Contact: Amy Bradsher, firstname.lastname@example.org
(541) 343-7600 ext. 106
Founded in 1997, the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) provides organic certifiers, growers, manufacturers, and suppliers an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing. OMRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. When companies apply, OMRI reviews their products against the organic standards. Acceptable products are OMRI Listed and appear on the OMRI Products List. OMRI also provides subscribers and certifiers guidance on the acceptability of various material inputs in general under organic standards.
Organic Produce and the Validity of Organic Food Studies
by Hiyaguha Cohen
To view Original Article Click Here
If your kid goes to Stanford University, you no doubt proudly sport the bumper sticker on your SUV; after all, the name "Stanford" carries a lot of panache. The school is considered a place where the intellectually elite congregate to deduce brilliant things. But, when researchers at Stanford went to the press with the conclusion that organic food isn't really any better than conventional food, they cast doubt on just how smart they are at Stanford after all.
The researchers reviewed 237 food studies before achieving their "ah-ha" moment. Of those food studies, 223 examined the levels of nutrients and contaminants in organic food versus conventional products. The other 17 studies followed populations on organic produce versus conventional diets. The studies ranged in length from two days to two years.
The chief finding put forth by the Stanford team was that organics offer no nutritional edge over conventional foods. In other words, the nutrients in an organic peach equal the nutrients in a conventional peach from Chile. Plus, organic products are equally vulnerable to bacterial infection from sources like E. coli, the scientists found. These factors led the team to conclude that organic products offer no real advantage, plus they cost a whole lot more.
"When we began this project," said study director Dr. Dena Bravata, "we thought that there would likely be some findings that would support the superiority of organics over conventional food. I think we were definitely surprised…There isn't much difference between organic and conventional foods, if you're an adult and making a decision based solely on your health."
"Isn't much difference?" First, there's the fact that only seven percent of the organic produce had detectable traces of pesticide present, compared to 38 percent of the conventional produce. Since all the produce maintained pesticide levels beneath the "allowable" standards, the scientists dismissed this fact, as well as the finding that kids on organic diets showed lower levels of pesticides in their urine compared to kids eating conventional diets. In addition, organic fruits and vegetables also showed higher levels of phosphorous and phenols. And the organic meats and dairy products tested contained far lower levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. But apparently, the researchers decided that none of these things matter.
Meanwhile, the AgriMarketing folks celebrated the news, letting folks know that they can now avoid buying organic and spend their cash on something more fun, like GMO potato chips. On the website, Agribusiness.com, there's a press release from the Heartland Institute, the same group that disputed findings linking secondhand smoke to health problems. "…the dirty little secret harbored by organic activists [is] that organic crops are not tested before they are certified. With this in mind, it's really not surprising that the highly bureaucratic organic industry is finally getting its comeuppance in this Stanford study," says the press release.
Actually, the press release does make one good point, which is that much of the produce with USDA approval is of questionable quality as it comes from countries with lax regulations. There's also the fact, not mentioned in the release, that much of the so-called organic produce grown in the US resides under the umbrella of huge food and agricultural conglomerates. This means that much of the organic produce to hit the shelves actually comes from large farming conglomerates making do on depleted soil, using questionable methods.
What's more, the USDA designation is so flawed that it actually allows for at least five percent synthetic or non-organic components, plus a certain level of pesticide residue, and testing for pesticides is very loosely applied on organics. In other words, USDA organics aren't necessarily purely organic, which would account for some of the discrepancies found in the study. Sadly, the USDA stamp of approval doesn't ensure the highest quality nor safest organic designation, which is why you're far better off buying from a local organic farmer who you know, or growing your own if at all possible.
- In order to satisfy the lobbying of large agricultural conglomerates, the USDA has dumbed down the definition of organic
- So that it is based on toxicity, with no consideration of nutritional value.
- Even at that, the USDA allows for the use of non-organic components and certain levels of pesticide residues.
- There are no requirements for making sure that nutrients are actually put back in the soil so that they can make their way back into the plant. As Jon Barron has said, "If there's no selenium in the soil, there can't be any in the produce grown in that soil." And that holds true for all the other minerals as well.
- The study looked at only a limited number of nutrients such as vitamins A and C and omega-3 fatty acids. Had the scientists looked for other nutrients, they might well have found them even in the dumbed-down organics.
- It ignored the studies most favorable to organic produce
- For example, the Human Nutrition Research Center, the most comprehensive study to date, found that organic foods are indeed higher in vitamin C, antioxidants, polyphenols 60 to 80% of the time, and vitamin A and protein are higher 50% of the time when compared to conventional foods.
- In that sense, it was merely a reaffirmation of previous food studies such as the British Foods Standards Agency study and the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry study that have already been exposed as seriously flawed. Just because you re-cite a flawed study doesn't make it any less flawed.
- And even at that, the flawed organic produce
- Tested higher in many nutrients
- And lower in pesticide levels
- And the conclusion was -- astoundingly -- no benefit?
But even more to the point, the longest of the food studies included in the meta-analysis went for only two years, hardly long enough to measure the impact of daily consumption of fruits and vegetables with measurably higher levels of toxins consumed day in and day out for several decades. One might wonder why the study report apparently tried to minimize the significance of the higher pesticide content in the conventional produce. Also, why did it minimize the higher phenol content in the organics, among other advantages found?
Add to that question the fact that, according to research scientist Chuck Benbrook of Washington State University, the methods used to assess pesticide content of the conventional produce in the study were deceptive and just plain wrong. He says, had the study been done correctly it would have found, "an overall 81% lower risk or incidence of one or more pesticide residues in the organic samples compared to the conventional samples." Furthermore, Benbrook says the study "didn't distinguish between a single pesticide trace and multiple traces; or between light traces and heavier traces." In other words, the conventionally grown produce contained far more pesticide content than the organic and far, far more than indicated, if Benbrook is right.
Why would the study authors underestimate pesticide content in the conventional produce? Guess? According to an expose in InfoWars, one of the study authors has unsavory ties to industry. Stanford University is one of the nation's biggest recipients of secret donations from Monsanto, Cargill, and other agribusiness entities, says the expose. And, it turns out, co-author of the study Dr. Ingram Olkin has known ties to the tobacco industry including a financial tie to Philip Morris. Ingram has been involved in research downplaying the harmful effects of tobacco.
So if the study makes you think that it's fine, after all, to choose those super-cheap strawberries grown conventionally, just remember back when some researchers still supported the safety of smoking. Think about how some of the same folks are lurking in the background in the studies assuring you that organics make no difference to your health at all. Then think about what produce you want to buy the next time you go to the store.
CCOF Achieves Half Million Acres of Certified Organic Production
(March 28, 2008) Santa Cruz, CA - CCOF, one of North America’s oldest and largest organic certifiers, this month surpassed a half million organic acres in its certification program. This is a major milestone for the organization that was started in 1973 by a small group of organic farmers.
CCOF experienced a 129% growth in certified organic acreage over the last two years, along with a phenomenal 141,317 acre increase in 2007, representing a 40.7% single-year acreage growth. CCOF’s 501,066 organic acres is split roughly evenly between livestock and produce operations. Certified pasture and field acreage has risen from just 38,611 in 2004 to 241,511, reflecting the growth in the organic dairy and livestock sector. CCOF now has 62 certified members producing milk. The main areas of growth in crops have been oats, rice, wine and table grapes, wheat, and alfalfa. Certified organic oat acreage increased by 51.6% in 2007, rice acreage by 49.3%, and table grape acreage by 39.3%.
Another interesting trend is the number of small to medium sized growers who are expanding their operations to include post-harvest activities, such as organic processing, handling or packaging, as means of adding value to their produce. “Much of our current growth is attributed to existing members adding acreage, facilities and products”, states Peggy Miars, CCOF Executive Director. “We’re excited that many CCOF members are experiencing growth and progress, and we support their continued success.”
In 2007, CCOF completed more than 2,300 on-site inspections of land and facilities to ensure their compliance with the standards of the National Organic Program. “That means we are overseeing on average 10 inspections per work day”, says Jake Lewin, Certification Services Director. “It’s evidence of the dedication and commitment of our staff to serve and support the efforts of our clients out there in the fields, growing the organic market.”
The organization also expanded its geographic reach. CCOF certifies acreage in 29 different states as well as five foreign countries. And, its growing Global Market Access Program assists CCOF certified operations looking to export their produce worldwide.
CCOF’s growth is reflective of the organic sector as a whole that has seen growth in organic sales revenue jump to $17 billion in 2006 from just $13 billion one year earlier.
CCOF (California Certified Organic Farmers), a nonprofit organization, was founded in 1973 and is one of the nation’s oldest and largest third-party organic certifying agencies. CCOF certifies, educates, advocates and promotes organic in California and elsewhere through:
- A premier organic certification program for growers, processors, handlers, and retailers.
- Programs to increase awareness of and demand for certified organic products and to expand public support for organic agriculture.
- Advocacy for governmental policies that protect and encourage organic agriculture.
EUGENE, ORE. (March 4, 2008) - The OMRI (Organic Materials Review Institute) Review Program has achieved USDA accreditation under International Organization for Standardization Guide 65:1996 (ISO-65). Best known for its work as an independent nonprofit certifying the compliance of fertilizers, pesticides, and other inputs to organic agriculture, OMRI received final notice of ISO-65 accreditation for its product certifications at the end of January 2008.
OMRI had already implemented a new quality control system in May, 2007 to comply with ISO-65 guidelines. Among other improvements, the new system builds upon OMRI's trusted input certification process with random inspections of a small percentage of OMRI Listed products and associated production facilities.
"ISO accreditation represents a milestone for OMRI in terms of formal recognition of our input product certifications as well as increased quality control in accordance with internationally recognized standards," said Miguel Guerrero, OMRI marketing director.
Official ISO-65 accreditation represents the culmination of a long-term project for the Eugene, Oregon-based organization after two years of standards and policy development, including a public comment period. The USDA completed a desk audit last fall, and in December 2007, two agency auditors visited the OMRI office for a two-day intensive review of the quality system and records.
"Our recent accreditation under ISO-65 by the USDA identifies that we have an acceptable quality system that uses National Organic Regulations as its standards to certify input products," explains OMRI executive director David DeCou.
Changes implemented to achieve ISO accreditation have greatly improved the organization’s ability to monitor ongoing product compliance. The new quality control system displays a strengthened commitment to do random inspections of facilities and unannounced sampling of product from the stream of commerce.
"Our ISO quality system moves us significantly forward in compliance monitoring of our products," explains DeCou, "OMRI's policies now require that we re-review every product every three years and audit at least one percent of our clients every year."
OMRI currently works with over 600 companies in its Review Program. This year’s OMRI Products List, an annual directory of all products OMRI has determined are allowed for organic agriculture or food processing and handling, has almost 1,600 products.