Organic misinformation is counterintuitive - The Packer

Organic misinformation is counterintuitive

10/07/2011 11:12:00 AM
Amelia Freidline

As many readers of The Packer may well know, Mischa Popoff’s credibility regarding organic agriculture has been questioned for some time. 
It is evident he is still attempting to plant doubt in the public perception of organic products. I would like to address the blatant inaccuracies Popoff expressed in his Sept. 19 opinion column.
Organic buyers are the segment of the population most likely to link fresh fruits and vegetables, organic or not, to a healthy lifestyle. The organic consumer is also the core consumer of fruits and vegetables. 
The produce industry will cut to the heart of its consumer base by paying any heed to Popoff’s campaign of misinformation. 
Instead, all of us committed to growing the consumption of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables should listen and learn from consumers and their choices.
Here are the facts.
Organic production is the only system that uses third-party inspection and certification to verify that no toxic and persistent pesticides or synthetic fertilizers have been used.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program conducts on-site audits of 100% of accredited certifiers. It is the only federal agency regulating food that conducts 100% inspections.
Every USDA-accredited certification agency inspects each certified operation annually. The inspection is on-site and reviews every component of the operation:
u The farm inspector inspects fields, seed sources, soil conditions, crop health, weed and pest management, water systems (for irrigation and post-harvest handling), storage areas, inputs, record-keeping, harvest and sales information, contamination and commingling risks and prevention and equipment.
u The livestock inspector inspects feed production and purchase records, feed rations, animal living conditions, production and sales information, preventive health care management practices, health records and overall animal health condition, and contamination and commingling risks and prevention measures.
u The handler or processing inspector inspects the facility and evaluates the receiving, processing, and storage areas. 
The inspector assesses procedures to prevent contamination from prohibited substances and to prevent commingling with non-organic ingredients.
Organic certifiers do, in fact, currently conduct unannounced inspections on a portion of all their clients each year. ISO 65 accredited certifiers are required to conduct unannounced inspections.
Certifiers currently conduct testing for pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics and other prohibited substances when contamination is suspected or when a complaint is received. 
New rule possible
While the standards largely focus on the verification of procedures (process-based), testing is a tool used regularly to validate contamination prevention measures and/or to address complaints and reported contamination.
NOP has recently released a proposed rule that will require certifiers to annually conduct residue testing on 5% of their certified operations. 
The required testing will be in addition to testing already conducted when contamination is suspected or complaints are received. 
The final rule will clarify the required testing provision in the Organic Foods Production Act. The final rule is expected late this year.
Inspections are objective and transparent. A copy of the inspection report is provided to the operator along with the certification decision. 
The certifier, including the inspector, must not hold a commercial interest in the business being inspected, or provide paid consulting services, accept gifts, favors, or payments other than the prescribed inspection fee. 
An inspector cannot serve as an adviser or consultant, and may not recommend specific products, practices, animal or plant varieties, or give advice for overcoming identified barriers to certification.
The term “organic” is federally regulated. Anyone making an organic claim is legally liable. 
A civil penalty of up to $11,000 for each offense can be levied on any person who knowingly sells or labels an organic product that is not produced in accordance with NOP regulations.
Consumers purchasing organic fruits, vegetables and other products can be assured that these products not only carry the most regulated food label available, but are the gold standard for those wishing to avoid produce containing pesticide residues. 
Given the facts, you can surely understand our shock at such disinformation from one individual spread in an attempt to undermine an entire growing industry.
Christine Bushway is executive director and chief executive officer of the Brattleboro, Vt.-based Organic Trade Association, the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America.
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.

Christine Bushway, Organic Trade AssociationAs many readers of The Packer may well know, Mischa Popoff’s credibility regarding organic agriculture has been questioned for some time. 

It is evident he is still attempting to plant doubt in the public perception of organic products. I would like to address the blatant inaccuracies Popoff expressed in his Sept. 19 opinion column.

Organic buyers are the segment of the population most likely to link fresh fruits and vegetables, organic or not, to a healthy lifestyle. The organic consumer is also the core consumer of fruits and vegetables. 

The produce industry will cut to the heart of its consumer base by paying any heed to Popoff’s campaign of misinformation. 

Instead, all of us committed to growing the consumption of healthy fresh fruits and vegetables should listen and learn from consumers and their choices.Here are the facts.

Organic production is the only system that uses third-party inspection and certification to verify that no toxic and persistent pesticides or synthetic fertilizers have been used.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program conducts on-site audits of 100% of accredited certifiers. It is the only federal agency regulating food that conducts 100% inspections.

Every USDA-accredited certification agency inspects each certified operation annually. The inspection is on-site and reviews every component of the operation:

  • The farm inspector inspects fields, seed sources, soil conditions, crop health, weed and pest management, water systems (for irrigation and post-harvest handling), storage areas, inputs, record-keeping, harvest and sales information, contamination and commingling risks and prevention and equipment.
  • The livestock inspector inspects feed production and purchase records, feed rations, animal living conditions, production and sales information, preventive health care management practices, health records and overall animal health condition, and contamination and commingling risks and prevention measures.
  • The handler or processing inspector inspects the facility and evaluates the receiving, processing, and storage areas. 

The inspector assesses procedures to prevent contamination from prohibited substances and to prevent commingling with non-organic ingredients.

Organic certifiers do, in fact, currently conduct unannounced inspections on a portion of all their clients each year. ISO 65 accredited certifiers are required to conduct unannounced inspections.Certifiers currently conduct testing for pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics and other prohibited substances when contamination is suspected or when a complaint is received. 

New rule possible

While the standards largely focus on the verification of procedures (process-based), testing is a tool used regularly to validate contamination prevention measures and/or to address complaints and reported contamination.

NOP has recently released a proposed rule that will require certifiers to annually conduct residue testing on 5% of their certified operations. 

The required testing will be in addition to testing already conducted when contamination is suspected or complaints are received. 

The final rule will clarify the required testing provision in the Organic Foods Production Act. The final rule is expected late this year.

Inspections are objective and transparent. A copy of the inspection report is provided to the operator along with the certification decision. 

The certifier, including the inspector, must not hold a commercial interest in the business being inspected, or provide paid consulting services, accept gifts, favors, or payments other than the prescribed inspection fee. 

An inspector cannot serve as an adviser or consultant, and may not recommend specific products, practices, animal or plant varieties, or give advice for overcoming identified barriers to certification.

The term “organic” is federally regulated. Anyone making an organic claim is legally liable. 
A civil penalty of up to $11,000 for each offense can be levied on any person who knowingly sells or labels an organic product that is not produced in accordance with NOP regulations.

Consumers purchasing organic fruits, vegetables and other products can be assured that these products not only carry the most regulated food label available, but are the gold standard for those wishing to avoid produce containing pesticide residues. 

Given the facts, you can surely understand our shock at such disinformation from one individual spread in an attempt to undermine an entire growing industry.

Christine Bushway is executive director and chief executive officer of the Brattleboro, Vt.-based Organic Trade Association, the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America.

Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.



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Ben Mark    
USA  |  October, 08, 2011 at 03:57 PM

Part 1: If Mr. Popoff is wrong and Ms. Bushway is right then I don’t’ understand the world correct. Wasn’t there just a few days ago a huge organic grape tomato recall going on? In April 2011 organic baby spinach tested by FDA had Listeria monocytogenes and was sold in CA, AZ and NV. If everything is so greatly inspected as this article make us believe, there shouldn’t be any incident like this at all. Organic produce is no safer from bacteria than conventionally grown produce that’s the fact. These expensive one day certification scam is worthless when it comes to daily food safety. The organic groups and certifiers where among the biggest fighters against the new Food Safety Law and are strictly against any traceability as well as the buyers. As a consumer I wonder why? If you Google for organic food fraud or scam or Organic certification fraud you can read up for days “Organic" Foods: Certification Does Not Protect Consumers by Stephen Barrett, M.D. http://www.quackwatch.com/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/organic.html Exposing the Myths, Dangers, and Lies About Organic Food: http://www.biblelife.org/organic.htm continued in part 2 as space is limited in the comment section

small farmer    
new york state  |  October, 08, 2011 at 06:35 PM

Haven't you never had a flying goose sh*t on your field? The problem is not with bugs. The problems is with large-scale production which combines product from different fields and farms and then distrubutes that over a large geographic area. This is how disease outbreaks occur whether they are organic or conventional - like the Jensen Farms Rocky Ford Canteloupes that we're reeling from. If they had distributed locally, the outbreak would be smaller.

Small Farmer    
New York State  |  October, 08, 2011 at 06:12 PM

Thank you for writing about this. Mr. Popoff has been spreading misinformation all around the web. For what? I don't know what his mission is - or who is funding him. Maybe he just wants attention. Scams are possible anywhere. Testing only tests a sample - not every thing - and is not a panacea. Rigorous paperwork and inspections by third party certifiers continue to be the best way to certify organic. Customers want organics. Customers want true organics. Thanks for your work.

Mischa Popoff    
Osoyoos BC  |  May, 04, 2012 at 06:37 PM

Dear small farmer: You're really going to have to come clean one of these days and tell everyone who you are. I'm surprised a reputable journal like The Packer would allow anonymous comments. In any case, could you please be specific about this misinformation I'm allegedly spreading? Organic crops and livestock are not tested to ensure prohibited substances aren't being used. Everything else is tested these days, why not organic food? How is it misinformation to point this out? Is it supposed to be kept a secret? To answer your other question... who is funding me? No one. Now, to you, please explain how "rigorous paperwork" helps prevent cheating. And what good are inspections by third-party certifiers if all they do is look over your paperwork?

Kathy Tapp    
Uniontown,Ky.  |  October, 12, 2011 at 12:24 PM

I would love to see these products that have sweetners in then to change from surgar cane which, many of us DO NOT WANT to XYLITOL; a sweetner that does not crytalizes, where as surgar cane is not healthy for you. Please help make trhis possible.

Simon S.    
Upstate NY  |  May, 08, 2012 at 12:13 PM

It's the same on this page: Opening statement of name calling (against Mr. Popoff), followed by broad brush statements about Mr. Popoff's misinformation, without ever addressing point by point what Mr. Popoff has written. I don't advocate for Mr. Popoff or the Organics industry, but unfortunately the level of debate needs to be raised to fact-based discussion and not who has the loudest voice to shout the other down. A nice smile and confidently written piece does not necessarily mean there's any merit to your point.

Mischa Popoff    
Osoyoos BC  |  December, 31, 2012 at 12:07 PM

This just in! By the USDA’s own admittance, “The number of results reported to the NOP in 2011 represents a sampling rate of less than 1% of certified operations.” Things go rapidly downhill from there because it turns out that “The majority of results reported to the NOP in 2011 were received from certifying agents which are headquartered outside of the United States, where periodic residue testing is a requirement under international organic standards (e.g., the EU). (See Federal Register Volume 77, Number 218, Friday, November 9, 2012, http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-11-09/html/2012-27378.htm.) So, it appears that Christine Bushway's assurance that "Organic certifiers do, in fact, currently conduct unannounced inspections on a portion of all their clients each year" does not hold up. How does a multibillion dollar industry get away with this?

Mischa Popoff    
Osoyoos BC  |  January, 26, 2013 at 03:18 PM

It's been almost a month since I posted irrefutable proof that the USDA admits there is basically no testing to prevent fraud and gross negligence in the American organic sector. I wonder when, if ever, we might expect a response from Christine Bushway? She refers to "the blatant inaccuracies" in my column. But it would appear that the USDA backs up everything I said. And besides, as I pointed out in that column that Christine responded to, "surprise field testing will reduce the cost of organic foods." So what are we waiting for? I won't bear a grudge Christine. Let's start testing all organic farms and processing facilities just once a year and we can put this debate behind us. Sound fair?

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