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Statement from OCA & Allies on Court Decision Tightening Up Organic Standards

Satement from Organizations Concerning the Outcome of Harvey v. Veneman, Docket No. 04-1379 (1st Cir.)

March 17, 2005

After a plaintiff-initiated appeal in the case of Harvey v. Veneman to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, Beyond Pesticides, the Center for food Safety and Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA, groups representing consumer, environmental and farmer perspectives, entered the case as amici (friends of the court) on several counts. The amici's involvement in the case was designed to hold United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) exercise of regulatory power within the parameters established by the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) and to ensure that the Amici's constituent communities could be involved in shaping the outcome of the lawsuit. The amici recognized that the decision in the case could have significant impacts on the organic marketplace. As a result, in their brief the amici urged the court of appeals to make sure that any ruling from the court not cause undue disruption and hardship on the organic marketplace.

Additionally, the amici supported a motion recently filed by the plaintiff requesting clarification that the court's ruling prohibiting use of synthetics in products labeled as organically produced not apply to the "made with organic" label category. The USDA did not support or oppose this motion. As of today, the impact of the court's ruling on the "made with category" is not yet known.

As follow up, the amici have convened several meetings with numerous other organizations, including Consumers Union and representatives of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), in an attempt to build consensus on appropriate responses to the lawsuit's ruling and to seek a stable regulatory framework that will both maintain the integrity of the organic label and allow the organic sector to grow.

At the current time, the undersigned organizations are willing to consider the limited allowance of some synthetic substances for use in or on the non-organic portions of products labeled as organically produced. This will require clear legal language in the OFPA and its implementing regulations that improves and appropriately supports a thorough, carefully managed National Organic Standards Board process used to review and approve all synthetic substances proposed for use in organic food processing.

Additionally, the undersigned organizations are committed to working with all interests to find clear, consensus language that will allow dairy farmers to continue conversion to organic production without suffering undue financial burdens and that acknowledges the simultaneous conversion of land and dairy animals.

The undersigned organizations wish to stress that they will continue to work with other organizations and OTA toward mutually acceptable ideas and language that reflect a common position on the issues of synthetics in processing the dairy conversion and provides for an adequate time line in implementation that does not disrupt the organic marketplace.

Alternative Energy Resource Organization
Beyond Pesticides
Carolina Farm Stewardship
Center for Food Safety
Greenpeace
Humane Society of the United States
Just Food
National Cooperative Grocers Association
National Organic Coalition
Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance
Northeast Organic Farming Association of N.Y.
Organic Consumers Association
Organic Steering Committee, National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
Public Citizen
Rural Advancement Foundation Int'l - USA
Sierra Club