But Mischa Popoff’s guest column (Sept. 19) on organics, riddled with factual errors, has no credibility.
The Packer has done a disservice to its readers by choosing to run it without question, including the assertion that organic certification is a “lax bureaucracy that masquerades as oversight.”
And while impugning the credibility of organic producers, Popoff completely ignores the benefits of organic food and farming.
As the largest grower of organic produce (and likely one of the “corporate organic farms” he refers to) in the U.S., we have the status to rebut Popoff’s portrayal of the organic industry as failing “to uphold even the most basic rules of common sense” and correct the misperceptions that his essay perpetuated.
Earthbound Farm holds the integrity of organic production as the most important aspect of our program. We have earned the trust of customers and consumers because of our rigorous organic integrity and dedication to the principles of organic farming.
You can trust that we frequently sit across the table from our consumers and share, very transparently, what we do.
Finally, we are strong proponents of testing as a means of validating the integrity and efficacy of our production and processes in organic and food safety.
Here are some examples:
- Food safety testing: Earthbound Farm’s food safety program is unparalleled in the produce industry. We test for salmonella, non-O157 EHECs and E. coli O157:H7 on inputs, water, field, raw product and finished goods. In raw product and finished goods testing, we add shigella testing into the mix.
- Fertilizer testing: Earthbound Farm’s organic integrity program requires that all of our growers test all liquid fertilizers to ensure compliance with organic standards and food safety standards. Unannounced inspections and sampling of on-site fertilizer supplies ensure that tests conducted at the producer level agree with tests of the material found on farms.
- Pesticide residue testing: Earthbound Farm conducts regular spot pesticide residue testing, in addition to targeted testing if any of our unannounced organic integrity inspections raise any concerns at all.
We’re not the only ones doing this. Third-party organic certifiers currently conduct testing for pesticides, GMOs, antibiotics and other prohibited substances when contamination is suspected or when a complaint is received.
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.
The National Organic Program has recently released a proposed rule that will require certifiers to conduct residue testing on 5% of their certified operations annually.
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.
Organic is, indeed, one of the most highly regulated, inspected and third-party verified food terms in existence in the U.S., but even such layers of assurance cannot ensure 100% compliance.
This is why it’s so important to choose food from producers with integrity, who merit your trust.
If people cheat the system, with or without malicious intent, their violations should not cast doubt on an entire group of producers.
I could continue to address the inaccuracies in Popoff’s column, but this column will get long and boring.
Suffice it to say that I have higher expectations of The Packer than to run a column like this without question, and I know that most of your readers have the common sense to question Popoff’s assertions.
Charles Sweat is chief executive officer of San Juan Bautista, Calif.-based Earthbound Farm.
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