Daily News Archive

USDA Organic Label to Hit Stores This Month
(from October 4, 2002)

This week's photo story, features the "USDA Organic" label which will hit supermarkets around the country on October 21, 2002. Products bearing the new label meet the requirements of the Final National Organic Program Rule, the national standards for the production, handling and processing of organically grown food in the United States. These rules, which replace state and local standards, were released in December 2000, but took nearly two years to reach the marketplace.

USDA released a proposed organic rule October 1998, but it was met with much criticism and sparked an unprecedented 325,603 public comments. USDA proposed allowing bioengineered crops, sewage sludge, and irridation, which became known as the “big three,” under the definition of organic. Many changes, including removal of the "big three" were made to the final rule.

Under the current standards, products bearing the "USDA Organic" label must contain 95-100% organic ingredients. Any remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List or non-organically produced agricultural products that are not commercially available in organic form.
If a product is 100% organic, it may be labelled as such. Processed products that contain at least 70 percent organic ingredients can use the phrase "made with organic ingredients" and list up to three of the organic ingredients or food groups on the principal display panel. For example, soup made with at least 70 percent organic ingredients and only organic vegetables may be labeled either "soup made with organic peas, potatoes, and carrots," or "soup made with organic vegetables."

While it is generally agreed that the final rule is an improvement over the proposed rule, many organic farmers and environmentalists have concerns with the regulations. A major concern is that synthetic substaces are allowed under certain circumstances in the current standards, even though the Organic Foods Production Act prohibits all synthetics. The Organic Consumers Association (OCA), a non-profit organization that represents the views and interests of the nation's organic consumers, is further concerned that the Bush Administration may allow corporate lobbyists to degrade organic standards and open loopholes for industrial agriculture to take over the "USDA Organic" label.