Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Beef and dairy petitions to FDA and USDA

I'd like to call your attention to two worthy petitions being collected by two consumers' organizations. One calls for the FDA to end feeding of all mammal remains to cows (and prevent the spread of Mad Cow disease) at, a site sponsored by Consumers' Union, the publisher of Consumer Reports.

The other is sponsored by the Organic Consumers Association, and it also concerns cattle, and again, misleading labeling. Some leading "organic" dairy producers are guilty of confinement animal feeding practices. You can read about it and sign the petition at, but I've copied the actual petition below for your information.

"We call on the USDA to:

1) Heed the advice of your own National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)
and clarify the National Organic Standards to negate the current
practice of raising cattle on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations
(CAFOs) whose products are marketed as "Certified USDA Organic." The
organic regulations (§ 205.239) clearly state farmers must "maintain
livestock living conditions which accommodate the health and natural
behavior of animals, including…access to pasture for ruminants." The
practice of producing "organic" dairy on CAFOs puts family farmers at a
strong disadvantage with corporate agribusiness, violates the spirit of
the organic standards, and is misleading to consumers.

2) Put an end to the practice of allowing organic dairies to increase
their herd size by continually importing young calves from conventional
farms. This clause in the standards was implemented to help family
farmers make the conversion from conventional to organic production.
This was meant to be a "one-time" allowance. CAFOs are now using this
loophole on a regular basis to increase herd size and production by
cheaply, regularly, and continually converting new conventional herds
into "organic" production without having to go through the trouble and
expense of breeding true organic animals. This should be a one-time
clause, after which the ruminants should be bred from organic livestock
on that farm or purchased as organic.

3) Allow the NOSB to make a final ruling on this matter at its November
2005 meeting. There have been five years of public comments on this
issue, all resulting in an overwhelmingly strong majority support of
the above two points. It is time for a final NOSB ruling and for the
USDA to implement actions based on that ruling.

4) Release the names of current NOSB candidates. The NOSB will be losing
five of its current board members after this meeting. Historically, the
board has been made up of appointees chosen by the USDA along with
input from the overall organic community. In the past, the USDA would
release the names of candidates, which ultimately led to an open
process of choosing the most qualified candidates. The USDA has
currently refused to release the names of appointees. It is very
important that the names be released so the organic community can be a
part of helping the USDA choose the best possible appointees."

Your emails and calls do make a difference. In response to attempts in
recent years to undermine organic standards, public outcry has stopped
industrial lobbyists in their tracks. For example, the recent rider to
add synthetic ingredients to the organic standards has been withdrawn
(perhaps, temporarily) due to public response.

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