(Beyond Pesticides, May 16, 2014) A survey by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) finds that consumption of organic products has continued to increase at a monumental pace. A growing organic sector is important as it creates healthier options for consumers, better working conditions for farmworkers, and more sustainable environment. As organic continues to grow it is important to maintain our high organic standards to maintain consumer trust in the organic label.
According to the survey sales of organic products in the United States jumped to $35.1 billion in 2013, up 11.5% from the previous year’s $31.5 billion and the fastest growth rate in five years. The survey also projects that growth rates over the next two years will at least keep pace with the 2013 clip and even slightly exceed it.
Sales of non-food organic products, at almost $2.8 billion, have jumped nearly eight-fold since 2002, and have almost doubled in market share. The growth rate of organic food sales, which has averaged almost 10% every year since 2010, has dwarfed the average annual growth of just over 3% in total food sales during that same period and now makes up 4 percent of the $760 annually spent on food. The fruit and vegetable category continues to lead the sector with $11.6 billion in sales, up 15%. With more than 10% of the fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. now organic.
A growing organic sector is important for giving consumers healthier food to buy and for creating a safer work place for agricultural workers. An American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) recent report on organic foods found that organic foods do provide health advantages by way of reducing exposure to pesticides, especially for children, even reporting “sound evidence” that organic foods contain more vitamin C and phosphorus.
Pesticides used in chemically intense agriculture also affect the health of farmworkers. Farmworkers, both pesticide applicators and fieldworkers who tend to and harvest the crops, come into frequent contact with pesticides. Their families and children are then exposed to these pesticides through contact with them and their clothing. Pregnant women working in the fields unwittingly expose their unborn babies to toxic pesticides. Organic agriculture does not utilize these toxic chemicals and thus eliminates this enormous health hazard to workers, their families, and their communities.
Organic agriculture also leads to a stronger environment. Recently, the Rodale Institute published a white paper, Regenerative Organic Agriculture and Climate Change: A Down-to-Earth Solution to Global Warming, which finds it is possible to sequester more than 100% of current annual CO2 emissions by switching to widely available and inexpensive organic management practices, which are referred to in the paper as “regenerative organic agriculture.”
It is important to protect the benefits that organic agriculture can provide by fighting to keep organic standards strong. During the recent National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) meeting several victories were won to maintain strong organic standards. During the meeting the board voted to uphold the phase out in apple and pear production of the antibiotic streptomycin, which is set to expire on October 21, 2014. The board also decided to send back to the Livestock Subcommittee a proposal to increase flexibility in the amount of methionine allowed in organic poultry production without an assurance that methionine will be reevaluated in five years under a standard as rigorous as the petition process. Those blocking the proposed methionine standard want a five-year expiration annotation attached to the proposal.
However, USDA in September announced dramatic changes to the process that governs organic standards and the review of allowable materials in organic production, as overseen by the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) under the Organic Foods Production Act. Consumer and environmental groups have said that the new procedures create less rigorous review requirements, weakening the policies that have been in place for over 15 years and adopted by USDA without any public input or consultation with the NOSB. Take action to ensure a strong organic program and increasing public trust in the organic food label by logging on to Beyond Pesticides’ Save Our Organics page and following the suggested steps.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides