The Organic Loophole – Feed Brokers’ Exemption

Flickr - Cow Feed - USDAgovBarbara H. Peterson, Guest
Waking Times

There has been a lot of talk lately about how “organic” USDA Certified Organic really is. In response, the USDA National Organics Program (NOP) will be requiring that 5% of organic certified farms now be tested for prohibited substances such as GMOs (genetically modified organisms).

“Certified agents will conduct residue inspections on at least 5 percent of the farms they certify each year.” That’s 5 out of 100 farms. Considering that here is still no threshold set for GMO contamination, if they find it, just exactly what are they going to do? If some contamination should be found, then “intentional” contamination would need to be proven before any rash steps are taken such as disallowing the food from that farm to be sold as organic.

…unlike many pesticides, there aren’t specific tolerance levels in the USDA organic regulations for GMOs. As such, National Organic Program policy states that trace amounts of GMOs don’t automatically mean the farm is in violation of the USDA organic regulations.

Rest assured, the big guys will most likely not have to worry. It is the little guys that can’t afford the added fees that will be targeted. The likes of companies such as Hain Celestials will probably get the perfunctory slap on the hand and continue on business as usual.

  • But lack of testing isn’t the only loophole that exists in the NOP regulations. It seems that organic feed brokers, you know, the middle men, are exempt from organic certification. Yup, they can do as they please, and all the farm-level testing in the world will not address the fact that at the broker level, feed can be intermingled because the brokers do not have to be certified.

    Hidden in plain sight under an innocuous sounding title, “USDA OIG Reviews Implementation of Access to Pasture and Related Rules for Organic Dairy Cattle,” located on the FDA law blog site is the following:

    “OIG [Office of the Inspector General] also identified a need for better oversight of organic feed brokers.  Currently, organic feed brokers are exempt from certification.  As a result, there is no guarantee that organic feed is not commingled with non-organic feed or contaminated.  This causes uncertainty about the “organic integrity” of the system.”

    A broker is the middle man. The manufacturer produces the feed, a broker acts as an agent between manufacturer and supplier, and once the feed is obtained by the broker, well, it appears that anything goes.

    So, all that “organic” feed that farmers and backyard goat milkers have been purchasing at an exorbitant price to make sure that our “organic” milk and meat is the best quality? Well, it is most likely commingled with non-organic feed by a feed broker, especially if the supplier is a large company. But again, not to worry, as the USDA plans to correct this sometime next year…. when they get around to it. Meanwhile, don’t expect the price of that comingled “organic” livestock feed to go down anytime soon. Oh, and happy munching on all that “organic” milk and meat that isn’t quite so organic, courtesy of our friends and benefactors at the USDA.

    About the Author

    Barbara Peterson is the author of the critical blog, Farm Wars, where this article originally appeared.

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